As a South African property owner, we're sure you’ve seen Eskom’s announcement (22/01/2023) that confirms permanent load-shedding for the next two years and may be wondering how this is going to affect bookings at your property going forward.
The industry has no doubt suffered losses already due to erratic and inconsistent load-shedding for some time now. So this news, while not a complete surprise, is the verification that it’s not going to get better and that back-up power is essential.
This applies to our personal homes as well as our rental properties. The reality is that rental homes that do not have back-up power are not going to be booked nearly as much as those that do. We have to be cognisant that the type of people who want to beautiful holiday homes generally have back-up at home and will book destinations that have the same. Not to mention the international market who expect an adequate solution to be put in place.
The flip side is that self-catering properties have been much slower in implementing back-up power compared to hotels, lodges and the like which means there is a small window now to differentiate your property in the short to medium term. Another plus, is that investments in certain off-grid solar solutions are currently 100% tax deductible in year one. However, who knows how long this will remain in effect as more South Africans get onboard.
Getting back-up power doesn’t always mean going completely off-the-grid, at least initially, and there are plenty of other solutions. Based on what we’re experiencing, adequate back-up means guests can cook, watch TV, have WiFi connectivity and lighting during loadshedding. This often translates into an inverter (with a battery) and gas hob as an entry-level solution. Solar rental companies are also making it possible for owners to have all the benefits of solar power and simply pay a fixed monthly fee while they monitor the system and take care of maintenance.
There is also a case to be made for the necessity of back-up power to protect the integrity of your property and it’s contents. The number of air-conditioners, fridges and oven elements that blew this December was unprecedented. This sadly happened over the festive season, despite appliances being serviced in November, which meant that it was incredibly tough to find parts and available service providers to assist. This resulted in some owners having to buy air-coolers, convection ovens and the like to ensure guests got what they paid for. This can be a double whammy, as platforms like Airbnb protect guests when amenities do not function properly or at all which results in forced partial refunds to guests for the affected nights.
When properties are not equipped for load-shedding, and 'equipped' does not mean a few emergency lights, guests get angry and frustrated. In this state, they are prone to find other issues at the house, even those that aren't material or something they may have overlooked normally. If they find more problems, it's going to negatively impact their experience and it will likely reflect in their review. While guests understand that load-shedding is a reality in South Africa and are made fully aware of the situation as it pertains to the property before and after they book, it doesn’t make it easier to deal with. They are meant to be on holiday after all. Travellers who have experienced load-shedding during a holiday have learned how unpleasant it is and are going to be more selective when booking their next trip.
So where to from here?
Going forward, we feel it’s imperative that owners invest in some sort of back-up power solution. When considering your options, it’s important to fully understand the maintenance requirements of the system you wish to put in place. Generators, for example, require fuel which can become logistical to manage. The set-up also needs to be suitable for guest use, especially as guests may not be able to monitor the remaining power supply when at your property.
We’re actively exploring different options for owners and have recently taken a guesthouse in the berg completely off-the-grid, so if you want to discuss this in more detail, please feel free to reach out to us.