Recently, Dorine Reinstein, a freelance journalist, contacted Don Scott to ask his opinion on the current energy crisis that South Africa is facing. She wanted to know if it was having a negative effect on South African tourism.
Although the crisis is heavily impacting many South Africans’ daily lives, with blackouts that last for hours a day, it seems that the effect on tourism is almost non-existent.
As Don points out, the safari industry in particular, with all-inclusive offerings and with most lodges having already had long experience with an unstable power grid to the game reserves (and therefore having all of the backup systems in place long before loadshedding came along), it seems safari lodges offer an ideal place to visit where the effects of blackouts are essentially unnoticeable from a guest experience point of view.
Has loadshedding impacted on tourism to South Africa?
Yes, I think it has, but there is probably a phase lag on the news of loadshedding versus actual decline in bookings. We are still seeing intense interest in South Africa as a safari destination for this year, and whilst travellers and agents are aware of the energy crisis, this doesn’t seem to be resulting in lower interest or cancellations yet. Of greater concern for me in terms of impact is the increase in the cost of doing business as a result of loadshedding. For our camps that operate with generator backup, our fuel costs have tripled in the last year compared to previous years.
Are travellers concerned about the energy crisis and black-outs?
Are they asking questions? What are their main concerns? Compared to previous years, where loadshedding was there, but wasn’t a topic of discussion around the dinner table with our guests, we are now finding that guests are aware of it and are interested in what is happening. The discussion is more about concerns for the South African business landscape and how it is affecting our ability to operate than around their own enjoyment of their holidays. Since our camps, all have either solar, or generator backup or are completely off-grid (in the case of Tanda Tula Field Camp), there is no effect on the guest experience as they are not subject to any blackouts during loadshedding. In fact, our current discussions with guests (especially return guests) is that in the past, since the electrical grid provision into remote areas has always been inherently unstable and they themselves have experienced power failures in the past, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in the guest experience and most comment that we seem to be extremely well set up to absorb the effects of loadshedding.
How can travel agents make sure they limit the impact of loadshedding on travellers? What questions should they be asking their DMC when booking hotels and experiences?
Here I think the obvious questions are around checking with the products that agents and operators are booking to ensure that they have backup provisions in place for when there is loadshedding. Agents should be checking that the products have either solar systems and/or generator backup systems in place to keep the lights on during loadshedding. They should also sensitize guests to be aware of the energy limitations and to understand that there may be certain things (like aircon) that may not be able to run during loadshedding.
Anything else you feel travel agents in the US should know about South Africa’s energy crisis?
I think it would be good for agents to understand that our cost of doing business has increased significantly as we have invested in systems to minimise the impact of loadshedding on our guests. Solar systems, battery backups, and generators are costly items to invest in, and the fuel costs for generators are currently a huge impact on our bottom line. Therefore, now more than ever is the time to support the South African tourism industry and send guests to visit our beautiful country as having revenue from international visitors is what makes us able to cover these increases in our fixed operating expenses.
If you would like to read more about this situation and get a few other perspectives on the situation you can find the full article HERE