Hospitality sector seeks post-pandemic lifeline

An aerial view of The Boardwalk in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth
An aerial view of The Boardwalk in Summerstrand, Port Elizabeth
Image: Eugene Coetzee/Instagram/HeraldLIVE

The hospitality sector needs to adapt to new opportunities that will be present when business resumes beyond the coronavirus pandemic if they are to survive.

This was the primary narrative of an online panel discussion hosted by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber on Wednesday.

The discussion focused on the effect of the pandemic on the hospitality industry and how the sector could recover.

Boardwalk operations manager Nicholas Forsythe believes businesses need to re-evaluate what their core service deliveries are and also re-examine their client base.

“It is vital to look at the new markets.

“Domestic travel will be the key revenue generator, because the international market will [only] likely be strong again next year,” Forsythe said.

“It is also important to look at the experiential element and try to partner with people who offer a different service to you to make your offering more interesting to customers within these borders.

“Also, this is an opportunity to explore your business contracts and current suppliers so that you possibly look at new products and new ways of offering,” Forsythe said.

He also spoke about  upskilling staff and considering job reductions, and not necessarily job losses, for instance by  looking at how one put staff to use, and adjusting operating hours.

Tracy Lancaster, one of the group general managers for the Mantis Collection, said she remained positive the sector would recover, but under a new set of rules.

“The [government’s coronavirus safety] protocols are essential and non-negotiable, and businesses have no option but to embrace those procedures.

“I think staff training and consistent management of those protocols is key, because without staff buy-in and guest confidence we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” Lancaster said.

She said levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to be carried through thoroughly because many staff could be at high risk, since  they relied on public transport.

She said there would be operational challenges and the constant pressure of the likelihood of establishments being shut down because of a Covid-19 case.

Regarding domestic tourism, Guy Dakin of BLC Attorneys said the Bay had been focused on specifically being a tourism area for the hosting of sporting events such Ironman and the city’s cycle tour, and that this might have to change.

“We have on our hospitality calendar all these sporting events and we have thrust on a lot on those events in terms of attracting people to the city, which has largely been successful.

“But we may have to change slightly because one doesn’t see how long mass events will be affected by the regulations and lockdown.

“And so organisers of those events now have to workshop ways of bringing those events back on stream for 2021, and how they will take place with the pandemic,” Dakin said.

He also said tourism initiatives would have to be repackaged, shifting focus away from sporting events and going back to making other things attractive to visitors.

“Locals will want to get out of their houses at some point.

“We have to make it attractive, and not just nice hotels and restaurants, because that is also looking sad.

“Stanley Street, for example, used to be a tourist site, but now that eight to 10 restaurants have closed there, we have a void in our city.”

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