The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the tourism industry particularly hard – however the timeshare segment has managed better than most to weather the downturn. Historically, timeshare has always somehow managed to survive tough times and the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be no different.
The timeshare model is highly resilient and diversified, which are key attributes that continue to fuel the recovery of the industry. For South African families, timeshare is an affordable way to enjoy quality holidays. Timeshare owners also view themselves as more than just a guest, they see themselves as owners who have a deep connection with the resorts. In this way they feel proud to be part of the resort’s success and are therefore instrumental in the success of the industry – according to Dream Hotels & Resorts chief executive, Nick Dickson
In an interview with Moneyweb on the developments at SA’s largest hotel group in the face of the pandemic, Tsogo Sun Hotels CEO, Marcel von Aulock, said that the Group’s timeshare resorts were very resilient. “In that market, the minute the restrictions are lifted, timeshare runs full. People use their timeshare. They want to be there,” he said.
The timeshare product inherently accommodates social distancing
According to Dickson, guest experiences and guest safety at resorts should always be front of mind, and he believes that timeshare has generally got this right in South Africa. “Timeshare has been lucky as the very nature of the product allowed for social distancing and family bubbles with most of the resorts in South Africa being self-catering, standalone chalets or apartments,” he said.
The quick uptake in bookings once the hard lockdown restrictions were lifted last year, showed just how fast pent-up demand for a well-deserved holiday can fuel the recovery of an industry. However, the road to recovery has not been without bumps in the road. As the industry was getting up off its knees, the onset of the third wave in July and ensuing Level 4 restrictions led to some of the lowest resort occupancy levels ever experienced.
“The good news is that the moment restrictions on inter provincial travel was lifted, we saw a swift return to almost pre-COVID occupancy Levels,” said Dickson.
Key industry attributes fuelling the recovery
Craig Derbyshire, Director of Vacation Recreation Services, believes that the combination of a high-quality product, being adaptable and having an engaged workforce has helped the industry weather the impact of COVID-19.
“At the start of the pandemic it was necessary to quickly adapt our business to the changing environment. Taking the necessary steps to ensure that the resorts were fully compliant with COVID-19 health and safety regulations meant revising cost structures to essential costs only and implementing extensive staff training on the new workplace health and safety regulations,” said Derbyshire.
Dickson felt that it was paramount to adapt the service offering to meet the needs and expectations of owners and club members under pandemic conditions. “We had to create new entertainment activities as some of the standard activities where not accessible. The biggest shift that we noticed was the desire to connect with nature and the natural surroundings,” he said.
Looking to the Future
“I believe the industry has the potential to recover, but this will be dependent on there being no further hard lockdown regulations, travel restrictions and the impact of vaccination programmes. The upside is that people are now more eager than ever to break away with family and friends after being couped up during lockdown,” said Derbyshire.
Multi-generational holidays have become more popular as families long to reconnect in a safe environment. Having the extra space and the ability to prepare and consume your own food has made timeshare units a big drawcard under pandemic conditions.
Now more than ever, the timeshare value proposition remains clear and compelling as owners and club members celebrate the significance of holidays, spending time with loved ones and creating memories – they know that there is something sacred about family holidays.
Dickson concluded, “I am excited about the growth in domestic tourism market, but it is going to take us a while to see figures north of the pre-COVID levels. The South African timeshare market has always been very innovative and I think the ability to be creative and adaptive has played a hand and will continue to play a hand with the next shock or opportunity.”