As the countdown to the Heritage Day long weekend and Whale Festival began, many hopeful Airbnb and short-term accommodation hosts were prepping for what they hoped would be the start of a new round of guest bookings. Cleaning and garden services were running ragged as hosts did their utmost to get properties ready to exceed guests’ expectations and to make their visit a memorable one.

One could see the branded vehicles of companies like Smart Cleaning Services, Broomstix, Home Genie and Butlers as they made their way around town. It does appear that the winner of the battle for guest bookings, however, was the long weekend rather than the festival weekend. On top of that, there were also a number of cancellations, largely due to talk of the Land Party’s march which deterred visitors from even trying to come through.

There are always two sides to every story and whilst some hosts continued to welcome guests, many were once again disillusioned about the lack of bookings for the Whale Festival weekend. In conversations with hosts, there is a clear picture forming of misunderstanding on a number of levels.

Hosts that had a reasonable flow of guests were mainly those accommodating 2 to 4 guests and particularly those in close proximity to the CBD. In a few instances, the establishments were fully booked but the main drawcard was not the festival. There were more families in town due to the school holidays and in many cases lower-priced accommodations were sought. Many of the larger properties accommodating 6+ guests did not achieve the bookings they desired and in some cases the nightly rate was just too high for even the more affluent of travellers.

It again begs the question that I have touched on many times – is it realistic to expect family bookings in large houses outside of the December/January season? At this point in time the answer seems to be an emphatic NO. With that goes the reluctance of owners/hosts to accept a reduced rate and continuing rather to take nothing than have some return on their investment. The oversupply that we are all so aware of does nothing to help. Many travellers no longer spend what they used to on holiday accommodation and even those blessed with thick wallets are cutting back on their budgets as we continue to be battered by the global, South African and local economic status.

With a fair amount of criticism expressed on social media, I am of the opinion that the volume of negative reactions to various aspects of the Whale Festival will only continue to deter visitors from our shores for
this festival, unless something
changes.

I read more and more letters and articles which are on the verge of begging and pleading with our town “leaders” to drive initiatives that will enhance our national and global visibility. Somewhere this is getting nipped in the bud, while we continue giving credence to Einstein’s saying that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. That witticism seems to hold true for many locals who feel that nothing will change their attitude to the Whale Festival until a complete rehash of the ”same old, same old” takes place, to quote one of the comments on social media.

For the foreseeable future, the 2 – 4 sleeper units in the right place at the right price will be the sweet spot for both guests and hosts. Larger properties will continue to lose out during the off-season unless the owners/hosts come up with a different approach to attract bookings. In many cases this will not be possible, as the focus is more on generating income than on driving tourism.

Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, if you are a host, you have an impact on the tourism sector of Hermanus. That is what this town is all about and unless we all take a reality check and adapt to the tough market we are faced with at the moment, we’ll continue to wallow in a pool of negativity.

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