Hospitality industry thrilled to be re-opening

First Group, a leading resort and hotel chain with popular destinations around South Africa, Namibia and United Kingdom, could not be happier following last night’s announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the Tourism and Accommodation sector will be allowed to re-open shortly under a new relaxed version of lockdown Level 3.

Managing Director, Shaun Lamont says, “I was thrilled to receive the news and we look forward to welcoming the return of our guests and staff.” He adds that whilst First Group is ready and definitely eager to reopen they do need to wait a little longer to receive the protocols from Government. “We are not 100% clear yet as to when we will be allowed to physically open our doors and we are also eagerly awaiting final clarity on any possible travel restrictions (which are still in place to assist in flattening the curve).”

Shaun is confident that as soon as Government gives the green light, the Group’s resorts will be open to receive guests. He says that extensive preparations that have been put in place during lockdown, which included liaising with the Vacation Ownership Association of Southern Africa (VOASA) and the various Tourism councils, to formalise the drafting and implementation of rigorous safety protocols for the various First Group resorts. “In consultation with the various councils, we developed a new ground-breaking programme called PristinePurposeCleaned (PPC) which is designed to optimise guest safety from check-in to check-out, transforming each and every resort and hotel into a COVID-safe zone.”

While First Group is eager to resume operations and roll out the PristinePurposeCleaned programme, Shaun adds that the company will be adopting a phased approach to opening both its resorts and offices throughout the country. “Safeguarding the health of our guests and colleagues will remain our top priority as we slowly re-introduce a level of normality into our lives. Staff will return to work gradually, taking into consideration the occupancy levels. The Resort staff, Food and Beverage team and Sales teams will be re-instated over the next few weeks, as demand and occupancies increase. In terms of office staff, those who can still work from home will continue to do so, while others will be requested to return to work, with the correct desk spacing and other health protocols in place.”

Shaun expects that the Government will confirm the reopening of the sector before the end of the week as discussions are already well advanced with the tourism, hotel and restaurant industry. The new regulations are expected to be released by 11:00 on Thursday.

“This is very positive news for First Group and for the sector in general which has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. We are cautious but optimistic that with the right disciplines in place, the decision to open will go a long way to raising the country’s confidence and hope for the future, not to mention restore employment to many financially-challenged households”, he concludes.