Holiday trends on the lower south coast of KwaZulu-Natal are undergoing change if this recent December holiday season is anything to go by, reports Dina Porteous, Pam Golding Properties' area principal based in Margate.

"This year the focus has definitely been on getting away from the crowds to relax in quieter more tranquil surrounds. As a result we have been able to successfully capitalise on this trend as we have the largest leisure property portfolio on the south coast, with over 250 Tourism Graded units scattered along the attractive coastline from Shelly Beach to Ramsgate - coupled with the fact that we have internationally recognised Blue Flag Beaches in Margate and Ramsgate. We were also fortunate during the recent December season not to experience electricity load shedding, and this was to enable us to accommodate our busy tourism market.

"We've seen a marked change in the requirements of holidaymakers with our traditional Margate visitors now seeking accommodation in the outer perimeters where they find it more relaxing. However, we still have holidaymakers specifically asking for Margate proper, and these generally tend to be those with teens who'd prefer to have entertainment on hand and within walking distance of their accommodation," says Porteous.

She says a further factor driving requests for leisure bookings is the demand for upmarket, higher graded accommodation. "We are capturing an increasing market among those who traditionally spent their holidays on the KZN north coast - now seeking such accommodation on the south coast. As a result, the apartments with 4-Star and upper grading were booked out first. In this regard Ramsgate saw the highest demand, surpassing areas such as Margate, Shelly Beach and Uvongo, and we believe this trend is largely attributable to the perception that the south coast now has the better beaches to offer sun seekers.

"Locally we are seeing the popularity of accommodation in Shelly Beach catching up with Margate at a rapid rate, and overtaking that of Uvongo. This could be due to the fact that available accommodation in Shelly Beach comprises newer buildings than Uvongo, while the shopping facilities in Shelly Beach are a major drawcard for tourists. To compete with such desirable, modern accommodation the Uvongo area needs to upgrade its own holiday accommodation, while Margate needs to complement the existing suburban accommodation with a broader scope of shopping and entertainment facilities," she says.

This year PGP Margate anticipates that the demand for domestic accommodation during the holiday periods will increase as a result of the drop in the value of the rand, coupled with high petrol prices and interest rates. "However we don't expect to see a rise in accommodation rates as the market is still trying to catch up with the oversupply. Having said that, our advice remains to book early in order to avoid disappointment. The reason for this is that we anticipate that an increased number of owners will be utilising their own accommodation, in turn reducing the units available to holidaymakers.

"With Easter just around the corner, we find that traditionally when Easter falls so close to the December holiday period (ie during March), we experience the highest levels of occupation the following month, during the last week in April, when - if you take just four workings days leave - you can enjoy a nine-day holiday. We believe that given all the above factors we will see a growing number of South Africans turning to accessible tourism destinations such as our attractive coastline, rediscovering the beautiful beaches and weather in an area where holidays are still affordable," adds Porteous.
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