Source: Dorine Reinstein
Tourism establishments around South Africa are expected to be heavily affected by frequent power outages during the December and January holiday seasons. The government announced it would be implementing stringent load shedding schedules in the coming months in an attempt to prevent the collapse of the country’s power system.
Donovan Muirhead, Chairman of the National Accommodation Association of South Africa, says smaller hospitality establishments are greatly affected by load-shedding as the vast majority do not have any type of secondary power generating device or back-up facility.
Chris von Ulmenstein, owner Whale Cottage Portfolio in Cape Town, agrees and says it’s embarrassing to explain the measures to international guests.
Lyndsay Jackson, Guest House Association of South Africa, says the biggest problem is the expense of setting up coping mechanisms, such as purchasing extra linen for quick turn-around times in the event that laundry can’t be done, or out-sourcing laundry services; providing plenty of candles, torches, special hand-held battery lights; and installing gas cookers so that, at the very least, guests can make tea and coffee or heat up light meals.
Although most larger establishments have generators that will minimise the disruptions, they are also reporting that they are experiencing major difficulties. Wayne Coetzer, GM of The Oyster Box, says running generators is ‘incredibly expensive and is eating into the budgets of the business’. He says The Oyster Box also operates on green principles. “Using a generator is not good for the carbon footprint, which concerns us enormously.”
Wayne adds that even with generators, travellers are inconvenienced. “It’s noisy, which doesn’t enhance the guest experience. Also, when the electricity comes back on, the surge often causes electrical equipment and appliances to blow, which is inconvenient and can be expensive to travellers who sometimes have to replace their electrical items.”
The hospitality sector fears the load shedding problem will eventually impact heavily on tourism to South Africa. Wayne says: “Load shedding is not conducive to generating or encouraging patronage or tourism.”
CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Enver Duminy, agrees and says: “Power outages will definitely affect the hospitality and tourism industry. With hotel food and beverage services, restaurants, theatres, attractions and retail facilities unable to operate to the best of their abilities, we will feel the impact on revenue and visitor perception of the destination.”
To minimise the impact of load shedding on tourism, tour operators and suppliers should manage the situation with a positive and proactive outlook, so that guests are inconvenienced as little as possible, advises Duminy. “Explain the concept of load shedding to international guests and forewarn visitors by pro-actively communicating expected power outages.”
Duminy adds that tour operators could also help clients by suggesting alternatives for guests when power cuts hinder their activities. Cape Town Tourism has compiled a list of ideas on what to do during load shedding: http://www.capetown.travel/blog/entry/5-things-to-do-when-the-lights-go-out-in-cape-town