South Africans aren’t going out as much as they used to

South Africans are returning to their pre-Covid-19 leisure activities – but in some cases, the recovery is uneven, with four out of the six categories that analytics group Lightstone assessed regressing in the 12 months to June 2022.

Additionally, Joe Spring, head of Location and Commerce at Lightstone, said none of the six leisure activities assessed – Entertainment, Holiday, Recreational sport, Stadium, Airports and Nightlife – had reached their 2019 levels.

Lightstone aggregated telemetry activity – stops by anonymised telemetered vehicles – within 50 metres of the central point of 35,000 sites every June.

While Lightstone’s telemetry analytics typically zones in on in-carpark activity via pre-constructed geofences around malls and petrol stations, data can also be accessed to understand activity that takes place in the general vicinity of different ungeofenced locations.

In such cases, Lightstone uses an approximation of a radial reach around a map point to make an assumption.

“We have examined data from the vicinity of 35,000 different locations belonging to six broad un-geofenced location types related to what we do during our leisure time, and it shows that none of the six types had returned to 2019 levels – i.e. all remain below 100%”, Spring said.

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However, activity at airports (67% of 2019 levels) and stadia (90% of 2019 levels) continued their recovery into 2022, while activity at entertainment venues, holiday accommodation, nightlife and recreational sports facilities had all dropped in 2022 after rallying in 2021.

Spring said that the insights into the data sub-categories suggested people still preferred smaller outdoor establishments over larger indoor ones, with B&B and camping sites recovering better than resorts and hotels.

“Likewise outdoor sports are preferred to indoor fitness and dance centres. Theatres, concert halls, zoos and aquariums remain the least recovered entertainment venues”, he said.

Lightstone’s data reflects official statistics published by Stats SA for various sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, which shows that these sectors are also struggling to return to their pre-Covid levels.

Tourism and accommodation data from September 2022 showed that, measured in nominal terms, total income for the tourist accommodation industry increased by 79.3% in September 2022 compared with September 2021.

Income from accommodation increased by 56.2% year-on-year in September 2022, the result of a 35.1% increase in the number of stay unit nights sold and a 15.6% increase in the average income per stay unit night sold.

However, despite the positive numbers, the occupancy rates and income derived from the sector are both still far below pre-pandemic levels.

September restaurant, takeaways and catering data, meanwhile, shows some strong growth for the sector, but also belies the reality that many businesses in the industry are struggling to reach pre-Covid levels.

According to property sector strategist at FNB, John Loos, most of the figures are coming off a low base from two years of lockdown in South Africa.

With inflation remaining high and more rate hikes on the way, the sector looks to be in for a difficult period ahead, and consumers come under pressure to keep heads above water, he said.

While all three sub-sectors – ie, Restaurants and Coffee Shops, Take-Aways and Fast Food and Catering – have been growing positively of late, things are far more volatile than they appear.

“Recent negative economic events have likely begun to force consumers to reprioritize expenditure partly away from non-essential spending such as eating out and takeaways,” Loos said.

Read: South African consumers are in trouble – and these businesses are suffering for it

Artmotion S.Africa

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