Global Edition

GBN: Letter from Africa 1 – The Lions are coming!!

10.51am 21st May 2021 - Opinion

Not as unusual a ‘shout-out’ on city streets in South Africa perhaps, as it would be in the UK!

Of course, these will not be real lions, writes John Cockayne, but British Lions, albeit still as intent, as their furry counterparts, in chasing down a Springbok or two.

It is however particularly poignant, given the status of travel between the two countries, thanks to the continuing effects of the pandemic that it will be the first sight that any of us here have had of visitors from outside of Africa, for quite some months – even if they are only rugby players.

Travel is a staple line-item for most African countries’ economies and South Africa is no exception.

Pearl Valley Golf Club

The continuing uncertainties and travel bans have wreaked havoc, with both international tourism and travel and the hospitality industry in general, especially with the social distancing requirements, which has limited space in most countries. These burdens have been further compounded by the ban of liquor sales, both off licence and on premise, here for many months.

They say that necessity is the Mother of invention and during the national lockdown in 2020, the sales of pineapples spiked to historic highs, as inventive South Africans became home based bootleggers, distilling their own alcoholic concoctions to see them through their enforced house arrest!

The subsequent easing of restrictions, including those allowing inter-provincial travel within South Africa and the permission for on-premise consumption of liquor to resume, were timely lifelines, which helped many businesses to keep their noses above water – even in only just.

The enforced absence of foreign visitors, also caused many to look around for alternatives. This combined with the travel bans saw a number of hotels and venues experiencing record levels of business from a combination of the effects of the lockdown, keen pricing and money that would have ordinarily been spent on overseas travel, staying at home.

It also reminded many in the sector that they might have ‘forgotten’ the local market and they set about looking at packages and pricing to woo local travellers.

One such initiative has been launched between the golf and hotel sectors, and part of the background to this lies not in the recent pandemic but because over the past thirty years golf rounds’ numbers, at most clubs, have shown an inexorable decline.

The reasons for this are multi-layered, but the fact is that most courses have unused tee off times every day and these would be referred to as distressed inventory in most business sectors. This reference is especially true, if you consider that a tee-off time is in effect a perishable, with a shelf life that is limited to the time of the tee-off slot itself, after which any potential revenues that could have accrued from it being used are lost forever.

A chilling scenario and one that is common at most golf clubs.

Montague Course at Fancourt

Golf Staycations have been designed to combine unused bed-nights in the hotel sector, in combination with ‘off-peak’ tee off times, to form great value, near-to-home vacation packages for golfers and their families.

As a golfer, imagine a golf break that has something for the whole family and which is just around the corner!

To promote this new travel-much-less vacation option, a competition has been set up at the end of which one lucky Gauteng golfer and three partners will be drawn to win a two-night, 5 star stay-near-home experience. 

The winner and three friends will enjoy the luxury and comfort of staying in two suites for two nights at the Sandton Sun Hotel, which is an award winning, 5-star hotel that is both distinguished and stylish.

The Sandton Sun hotel is also a gateway to one of Africa’s busiest and most eclectic shopping experiences. From the major global brands such a Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Armani in ‘Diamond Walk’, to familiar South Africa eateries and coffee shops, all these combine to make this a shopping centre, which really does have something for everybody.

Sandton Sun in a combination with Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square is a great mix, about which it would be fair to say that, rarely is so much choice and entertainment so close at hand.

Robert Jasper, the GM of the Sandton Sun and Sandton Towers hotels (pictured), said: “Tourism has been under unprecedented pressure since the onset of the pandemic. The need to be creative and innovative has become extremely important, so any product which addresses valuable niche markets and which has the potential to offer value to our customers and fill bed-nights is good news.”

The award-winning Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club will need no introduction, with its two magnificent award-winning golf courses and a sumptuous clubhouse.

Over the next few months regional competitions, will be held as the promotion rolls around South Africa and these will include both Fancourt and Pearl Valley.

Peter Dros, Fancourt’s marketing and sales director, commented; “This promotion, and the attendant competitions, fit perfectly with our philosophy of always looking to add value to our packages and extending the customer experience wherever possible.” 

Damian Wrigley the GM of Pearl Valley said: “Our marketing ethos has always been to package in added value, so any product such as Golf Staycations, which allows us to combine golf with our Pearl Valley Hotel by Mantis and other offerings here at Val de Vie, is a perfect strategic fit.”

Back now back to those Lions – and although it seems that no camp followers will be permitted (at least at the time of going to press), for those fans based in the Gauteng area, keen observation might well be rewarded by a glimpse of a British Lion or two, as it is rumoured that they might ‘hole up’ at the Sandton Sun as they have in the past, or be seen on the prowl in nearby Fourways.

John Cockayne Mobile 0027 (0) 73 8967931 & Email

John’s eclectic business experience in tandem with his writing skills – makes him much sought after as a business consultant and writer. In terms of the latter, and amongst a number of current roles, he is the golf editor with, or a columnist for, a number of top platforms and publications including Destination Golf Travel Global, GolfVistaSA, GolfRSA and Business Day.

John is a very experienced event manager, has had extensive marketing experience, worked as a project consultant on three continents and has developed and run a travel agency and two tour operator businesses. He is also a Founder and Life member of the PGA of South Africa and is no stranger to working inside the ropes having held operational roles as a head professional, director of golf, club manager, coaching director and as a tournament official on the Sunshine Circuit.

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