The world is on the move and people are travelling more than ever. It is estimated that by 2030 a global population of 8.5 billion people will take approximately 2 billion international trips, according to a report by World Tourism Organization.

First Group’s Managing Director, Shaun Lamont, believes that with this growth in travel, service providers need to be able to meet the ever-evolving needs of consumers. “While there is little doubt that renovation is an ongoing costly exercise, it is important to acknowledge that product innovation and property renovation are inseparable and an essential requirement to stay competitive in the market.

“Travel has progressed in leaps and bounds and so have travellers, which means the hospitality industry needs to be constantly transforming and enhancing itself. This is key to delivering the right mix of services and amenities to meet the expectations of guests,” says Lamont.

Over the years the traditional hospitality model has developed into a more multi-faceted approach from offering the basic amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and possibly a golf course to nowadays state-of-the-art business centres and digital conference facilities, high density WiFi and smart room keys amongst others.  “The development of these business amenities has had a substantial influence on the growth and prosperity of the hospitality sector,” notes Lamont.

Guests no longer see Wi-Fi as a perk, but as a must-have and they expect to be able to connect to the internet seamlessly without too many interruptions. For most leisure properties, this has meant complete Wi-Fi infrastructure overhauls.

Over the past 3 years, First Group has rolled out an extensive R179 million refurbishment programme to meet the evolving trends, and in doing so have aligned themselves with the future growth predictions for the hospitality industry. According to the PWC Hotels outlook: 2017-2021, the South African market will over the next 5 years see a growing number of new hotels. The report also indicates that the overall number of available rooms is expected to increase at a 0.9% compound annual rate, thereby adding 2 700 rooms over this period.

“Continuous investment to unlock the substantial potential that this industry has to bring is fundamental to staying at the forefront and delivering on customer expectations. It’s about looking to the future with innovation in our minds and our guests’ best interests in our hearts. And at the end of the day, the true test will always be the positive feedback you receive from your guests,” concludes Lamont.