By Garnet Basson, chief operating officer at The Capital Hotels and Apartments

The hospitality industry as a whole is feeling the crunch of the current economic climate, with conferencing venues in particular seeing a change in booking patterns.

While The Capital Hotels and Apartments’ properties in Sandton and Pretoria defied trends over the December 2019 festive season, we are mindful of the many factors that will impact the local conferencing and business hotel sector during 2020. These include:

  • Business travellers don’t go to a hotel because they like it – their procurement teams choose hotels that deliver value and meet objectives. They also choose hotels that are flexible with price, and who are open to discussion and negotiation around creating the best possible solution to the traveller’s needs.
  • Conferences are shorter than ever before, with tighter budgets keeping delegates’ focus on the business at hand and social and entertainment activities kept to a minimum. Agendas are shorter and more focused, with events that used to be four days now being condensed into two. The venues that offer conferencing and social amenities on site, with spacious rooms or apartments for guests to make the most of their time away from home, will be first choice.
  • This ‘shrinkage’ of conferencing has also been encouraged through developments in technology. Platforms like Skype and Zoom make it possible for people to engage virtually face to face, removing the need for frequent team breakaways. Venues that offer a full technology and communications array will benefit from conferencing organisers that are achieving a blend of traditional and technology-enabled formats.
  • Industrywide and themed events are growing in popularity, with multiple role players in a particular sector finding value in engaging in an off-site context. These conferences and expos stimulate networking and sales opportunities, and venues that can offer expo floors and breakaway rooms for one on one meetings will be the cream of the crop.
  • Smart procurement teams have realised that booking aggregators don’t necessarily always secure the best deal, having realised that direct relationships with accommodation providers may yield better prices and improved value for money.

Despite the current somewhat gloomy climate, I’m immensely positive about the future for the South African tourism and eventing industry. As a whole, the local industry is far superior to many I have encountered on my extensive travels abroad – our people are amazing, we have a beautiful country, and our globally renowned warm hospitality draws people from all over the world.

Our business has always identified opportunities in economic downturns – starting from being established at the height of the 2008 global economic downturn – and we remain optimistic that there are massive opportunities to build and grow a business in South Africa, with the right mix of innovative product, flexible pricing, and exceptional service from motivated hospitality staff.

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