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Energy & Environment

Sunday, 24 July 2011 22:27

Torches for tourists arriving in South Africa?

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The effects of load shedding may have far reaching consequences for South Africa's hospitality industry, possibly affecting expected bookings for the World Cup in 2010.
This is the grim warning of leaders within the hospitality trade who are scrambling to ensure that load shedding does not inconvenience their guests and that hotels are able to function at necessary capacity during times without electricity.

“Apart from the logistical problems a hotel faces during electricity black-outs, the confidence of overseas visitors regarding their safety and comfort when visiting South Africa may deteriorate considerably if load shedding continues at this unforeseeable rate and influences their chosen accommodation provider, warns Brian Singer, CEO of the Singer Group, which owns the new Protea Hotel Colosseum in Cape Town.

“In order to combat a drop in bookings due to the power crisis, the hospitality industry needs to prove that it is capable of coping with the power outages without compromising our guests' safety and comfort. This means that any hotel or guest house needs to have a basic back-up system that drives lifts, emergency lights and telephones,” he adds.

“But these are really only the basic safety precautions; we have investigated similar situations elsewhere and are learning continuously from our ongoing electricity crisis and with some planning and modifications it is possible to run a hotel, such as the Protea Hotel Colosseum successfully through a power failure”, he adds.

“During the early stages of construction of our Hotel, Cape Town experienced a series of power outages. It became clear to us that we needed to amend our construction and electrical plans in order to accommodate a generator that could keep the Hotel functioning with minimal disruption to our guests.”

“Upon making a booking, a guest should enquire whether the hotel has sufficient back-up power to guarantee a safe, comfortable and pleasant stay at a hotel, e.g. power to the elevators, as we do at the Colosseum”, advises Singer.

“We are seeing hotels and guesthouses that loose their ability to cook, because while they have gas stoves, the extraction vents are not running,” he says. “At the Protea Hotel Colosseum our generators are powerful enough to ensure that our guests hardly notice a power outage and we are able to continue with our services.”

With sufficient generators, hotels are able to run at full capacity, however especially for the smaller accommodation providers this often means a financial outlay which few of them can afford. However, guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts have resorted to providing their guests with torches, battery-operated lamps and candles while providing meals prepared on outside fires.

“Smaller guesthouses can provide for the needs of guests with a little innovation and some changes, large hotels cannot afford not to invest in generators in order to keep running and providing the service that is drawing our overseas visitors to South Africa,” adds Singer.

In order to restore confidence in the South African hospitality industry, it needs to ensure that guests are informed and that neither their safety nor comfort is compromised by providing the necessary guidelines upon check-in and training staff to assist guests during a black-out.

“The electricity crisis is certainly a challenge to the industry but we are facing it head on and need to create confidence in our guests that through proper planning, every accommodation provider is able to provide the service expected of him,” concludes Singer.

Awareness of South Africa has continued to grow in the build-up to the country's hosting of the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010 and up until the power crisis the number of overseas visitors to South Africa has grown steadily, however, statistics since load shedding started are not yet available.


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