Eight trends shaping tourism to South Africa
By: Mariette du Toit-Helmbold - About
Being able to predict the future in such a volatile world, and in an industry like travel and tourism, would be wonderful.
While we are not able to foretell the future, we are able – if we look beyond the narrow perspectives of our immediate surroundings and comfort zones – to detect changes in people’s behaviour and the fragile systems that hold things together.
Below, I have singled out a few trends that are relevant to South Africa:
1. It is all about the heart
One trend holds the key to standing out in 2015 and it is of particular relevance to South Africa: ‘connecting the human to the heart’ has become critical in an ever-increasing world of mobile connectedness. Today, these ‘connected travellers’ are making choices dependent on their impact on the world and its local communities, and brands need to react as such if they are to attract a piece of the ever-evolving travel pie.
The world wants meaningful experiences, knowing that their visit has had a positive impact on local communities and the economy without harming the natural environment. It’s good to show some heart and let the world inside our less than perfect world. Perfect is boring.
2. The new relaxation
Whilst airlines are competing to make air travel more relaxing and hotels are focusing on quality sleep as a unique selling point, in destination, travellers are spending less time ‘relaxing’ at the poolside, opting for active ways through which to explore destinations. Biking, hiking and even running tours are popular ways to get to know places better. Many people travel to learn a new skill, practise their hobbies or learn more about a particular field of interest, whether it be cooking, cycling, architecture or design.
South Africa is perfectly positioned to take advantage of these trends.
Technology now plays a major role in achieving convenience. More consumers in pursuit of trying to manage their days more effectively are willing to pay for products and services that optimise the use of their time. If we can make it easier for travellers to find the information they need, enquire, book and navigate through our destination, we will reap the rewards.
4. Online influencers
It is no longer conventional celebrities who are dictating buying behaviour through sponsorships and those awful ‘paid-for tweets’.
Mobile technology is transforming the tourism landscape in terms of bookings, customer service and consumer behaviour. Social networks are fast becoming ‘virtual shop windows’ and with the rise of technology, regular consumers like you and I are able to share our thoughts, movements and favourite things immediately, steering the buying preferences and behaviours of those around us who trust our opinions.
Free WiFi is now one of the most desired hotel perks with pictures of hotels and restaurants landing up on social media sites in real-time, allowing consumers to curate their travel aspirations.
Online shopping allows for foreign shopping at the touch of a button. It’s more interactive, fun and sometimes significantly cheaper. However, this has not made the desire for real shopping experiences obsolete altogether.
Euromonitor International believes that in 2015 “many consumers will be making a holiday of shopping, or at least making shopping tourism a major part of their holiday by choosing a base near key shopping areas”. Malls are being reinvented as stylish community centres, becoming hubs for social and business activities, as well as the opportunity to be exposed to sought-after international brands.
Food is a big factor in retail, with consumers and travellers opting for artisan bakeries, fresh-produce markets and authentic local food experiences. Craft beer, biodynamic wine, super-sleek designer butcheries, delis, coffee roasters, organic anything and locally produced gin are all the rage.
Travel by Millennials is on the rise and is one of the largest growing markets in the world.
Millennials are young and connected savvy travellers with big hearts but not always a lot to spend. They are indifferent to luxury brands, preferring responsible and impactful products and services. Euromonitor says: “ [Millennials] have grown up on free services, games and social networking, and brands are finding it harder to sell to them.”
Mobile payment methods, wearable electronics and real-time mobile translation will become an important tool for millennial travellers as they explore new and often off-the-grid destinations, allowing them to stay connected and make bookings as they travel. They are influencers themselves, gathering information via travel websites (67%), blogs and reviews (66%) and social media (35%), whilst inspiring their peers and parents to travel beyond the obvious and dated destinations.
Flexibility will be key if you want to stay appealing to these ‘always-connected’ consumers.
7. Changing the world for better
Consumer interest now dictates a more caring and committed culture, where travellers want to experience the authentic daily life of locals and want to see their money make a difference to the lives of people in the places they visit. Consumers are searching for value for money combined with more memorable and authentic experiences like in-home meals, cooking lessons and guided tours around foodie hotspots.
In addition, going green in travel continues to gain momentum as Fair Trade organisations all over the world punt environmentally and socially responsible products to travellers.
Furthermore, the concept of ‘lightweight living’ is on the rise. More people are downsizing on possessions and the ‘sharing economy’ is growing, from ridesharing to homesharing and couchsurfing.
8. Health conscious
Consumers have become increasingly health conscious and are becoming more devoted to their mental and physical wellbeing, taking to digital media for news on fitness, healthy lifestyles, daily workouts and diets. This rise in ‘connected health’ is working for consumers in other ways too as social media and blogs act as megaphones to pressure the food and travel industries into greater transparency and ethical practices.
Yoga retreats, active holidays and responsible, healthy travel options will gain popularity in 2015.
South Africa must position itself as a destination that offers healthy, safe travel experiences to the curious, active traveller – tailor-making experiences and packages that suit both Millennials and older travellers. This is one area that needs investment, making it easier for people to buy travel to South Africa through all-inclusive, interesting packages suited to the kind of travellers we want to attract.
2015 holds great promise for the travel and tourism sector if we can spot the many opportunities that these trends hold, break a few moulds and tell our whole story.
This article is published in: South Africa
By Mariette du Toit-Helmbold - About