…says Protea Hotel Group’s Danny Bryer.

As hotel groups heave a collective sigh of relief that occupancy levels in South Africa have shown a full year of recovery, one can strategically look at possible expansion says Danny Bryer, Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue for the Protea Hospitality Group.
Bryer was commenting after the announcement in October that a new Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! is being built in Menlyn, Pretoria. It will open in 2014.
STR figures have shown for a full year now that we seem to be slowly back in business. I dont know anyone who isnt relieved that occupancy levels have been steadily rising, but its not a situation we should take for granted.
The traditional inbound market is still problematic with the Euro zone in dire straits and the global economic situation also mitigates absolute faith that the executive travel market and incentive groups have recovered, even though were seeing encouraging stats.
Bryer says before any decisions are taken about expansion in South Africa, hoteliers should pause to consider the hard lessons learnt from the manic construction phase that preceded the 2010 World Cup.
Its a price were still paying in many areas of South Africa. Cape Town is a prime example of where hospitality companies should consider carefully before expanding in the short to medium term.
Like other centres, occupancy levels in the city may be showing a slow but progressive recovery curve, but the Average Daily Rates (ADR) lag demonstrates clearly that hotels need greater focus on growing both rate and occupancy in order to drive revenue. If we dont get that right first, recovery is not sustainable in the long term.
A report released mid-year by PriceWaterhouseCoopers projected that steady growth in tourism would fuel growth in the accommodation industry in the next five years and that the number of visitors to the country would rise to 16.86 million by 2016.
Bryer agrees that its possible, but says for that scenario to play out favourably hoteliers need to understand the lie of the land in South Africa.
We dont want to plunge our industry into another phase of drastic oversupply and there is a very real danger of that happening if as a hotelier you dont intimately know the local landscape.
We should be conducting studies to identify the regions where growth is possible.
Bryer is cautiously optimistic about the next year.
If those occupancy numbers keep growing, well all do reasonably well in 2013. Thats of course if we dont shoot ourselves in the foot by jumping on the build cycle bandwagon without thoroughly considering where and when were going to build.