Regular travellers know that international travel often involves many hours of sitting around at airports. If your flight to Johannesburg from Lagos, for instance, arrives at 3am and the next flight to your next scheduled international destination leaves at midnight, that’s an awfully long wait at the airport.
While some travellers may qualify to stay at an airport lounge, the comforts offered in those places aren’t really enough to help one cope with over 20 hours of waiting. And, while it could be a good opportunity to do some shopping or see a few sights in Johannesburg, without a South African visa that isn’t possible.
“If you travel on a Nigerian passport, for example, you’ll need a visa to enter the majority of countries in the world,” says Sandra Woest, Senior Manager of Henley & Partners South Africa, specialists in residence and citizenship planning. “This means that you wouldn’t be able to leave the airport for a few hours between flights to take a room in a hotel nearby, unless you are cleared through the immigration desk, and that implies that you need a visa.”
So, what can the traveller facing the prospect of endless periods of hanging around do?
There is now an appealing option at the O.R. Tambo International. “Johannesburg’s Airport plays host to Africa’s only transit hotel, the Protea Hotel Transit O.R. Tambo Airport, a hotel property available exclusively to passengers in transit,” Nicholas Barenblatt, Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels and African Pride Hotels explains. “These are passengers caught within the international terminal of the airport, unable to leave that part of the airport while they sit out the time until their next flight, because they cannot pass through the immigration desk area.”
Transit hotels are really unique – oddly enough, you won’t find anything similar if you travel via the world’s most popular cities like London or New York. In fact, there are only 11 such hotels in the world.
“Providing the guest with a bedroom and bathroom, as well as access to a business lounge and free Wi-Fi, this is an option that ticks all the boxes,” Barenblatt continues. “It allows for a chance to rest and freshen up, as well as to catch up on work emails, and so the hours spent are not wasted at all.” And, if the guest wants a meal or would like to do some shopping, the duty-free mall is close by.
Seasonality is not a factor for the Protea Hotel Transit O.R. Tambo Airport. With 87 rooms, it is busy year round, especially as it is situated within an airport that has the capacity to handle up to 28 million passengers annually, and offers non-stop flights to all continents (except Antarctica).
Bookings are very flexible too. For stays of 24 hours, the fixed overnight rates apply, but a guest can also stay for a few hours and is charged per hour. “Guests can redeem their Marriott Rewards points for overnight stays, which is a particularly satisfying way to enjoy the Rewards –when they’re most needed,” Barenblatt says.