Self-catering boom in Cape Town is technology driven

There has been a large increase in self-catering accommodation bookings over recent months, following a surge in the adoption of technology across the sector, together with an extensive selection of new properties entering the market – according to CometoCapeTown.com.
James Woolley, founder of
James Woolley, founder of CometoCapeTown.com
Last year, Cape Town Tourism announced that all accommodation types, with the exception of self-catering, registered positive growth in 2013.Now, following exceptional growth in the US, Australia, the UK, and into Europe, the self-catering industry in Cape Town is on a steep upward trend with some booking platforms registering an increase in bookings of over 150% month on month.

Data shows that an increasing number of locally based self-catering businesses are adopting digital booking technology to increase their enquiries and bookings. James Woolley, founder of CometoCapeTown.com, said: “There are various reasons for the sudden growth in the self-catering industry, but the primary driving factor is a global surge in travellers now looking for more authentic experiences, an online presence and better value for money.

This has created great opportunities for property owners, particularly in and around Cape Town, who are now seamlessly using software such as Nightsbride, Razor PMS and Siteminder, the likes of which major international hotel groups use to market their rooms online. This was unheard of just a short time ago.”

Looking abroad, Frommer’s Travel recently predicted that roughly 30% of domestic US travel will by the end of 2014 include a vacation rental (self-catering) as the lodging component. Compared to the previous year, this is nearly double.

Global demand for self-catering

“A prime example of how much potential growth there is in this sector is made visible by Air BNB, founded five years ago in San Francisco. Air BNB, a cloud-based self-catering booking platform, took the global travel industry by storm and now dominates a new segment of the market. The company’s remarkable growth shows the global demand for self-catering accommodation, which we are now seeing here in South Africa.”

According to reports, Air BNB recently attracted an investment of USD 450 million, valuing the company at over USD10 billion. ”We can most certainly expect to see investment entering the self-catering segment in South Africa. The massive growth potential in line with global trends makes such investment attractive to established businesses and investors within the tourism sector,” said Woolley.

Cape Town Tourism has already revealed that self-catering accommodation was up by more than 10% in January (year on year), with future growth predicted over the coming months. Evidence of this growth can be seen with CometoCapeTown.com, which achieved an increase of 150% in bookings during March 2014 when compared to March 2013, and when compared to March 2012 an impressive 466% growth. It appears that March 2014 wasn’t a one-off occurrence either, as the company more than doubled its bookings in February 2014 year on year and, in January 2014, had an increase of 160% in bookings versus January 2013. ”This continued growth is exciting for the entire self-catering industry and we don’t anticipate it slowing down any time soon,” said Woolley.

Early bookings

Other travel portals are also seeing extensive growth in self-catering accommodation bookings. “As self-catering continues to grow in Cape Town, so we see more demand from international visitors. We are now seeing bookings coming in as early as 18 months in advance, where before accommodation was generally booked within a few weeks of arrival or even on the day. The way in which travellers book has changed drastically compared to how it was done a few years ago, and the Cape Town self-catering industry is catching up and using technology to grow business and the entire market segment as a result.

“The weakening of the rand has certainly also been a big draw card over recent weeks, but this growth in self-catering has taken place over several months so it is far more than just the weak rand.”

What used to be a fairly disorganised and fragmented industry in Cape Town is quickly becoming highly developed and a preferred accommodation choice for many travellers using the digital space to make their travel arrangements. “We are likely to see continued growth in the volume of self-catering inventory with more widespread use of technology across the sector,” said Woolley.