Peter Drucker’s “Business only has two key functions: marketing and innovation”, is very relevant for the tourism industry. With ITB Berlin in full swing, it is interesting to see that innovation in tourism is not only about creating new experiences, but also about how we present them, moving with the times and trends and staying up to date with customer expectations.
While Trump’s presidency and Brexit are indications that many people feel threatened by the global village idea, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hit the nail on the head at ITB Berlin: “Tourism thrives on the openness of the world.” The internet, to a large degree, is responsible for opening up the world – exposing us to places, people and experiences and also ensuring easy access to travel and booking information. The need to plan and book itineraries online – even through social media – requires tourism operations to be exceptionally well organised online and it is the Millennials and their use of the online space that drives this trend.
Looking at Lisa Anderson’s 4 Insights on Millennial Travel Behaviour, it is easy to see how Millennial expectations and travel trends align.
Destination immersion is a new term to me, but the concept is familiar – tourists wanting an authentic experience. “In fact, 78 percent want to learn something new while they travel and about half of Millennials said they would pick a destination because they want to experience the culture.” Trying the local food, meeting the local people, getting to know the traditions and ways of a region or country.
This trend for authenticity opens many doors for South Africa. Not only do we have exceptional diversity, offering a variety of authentic cultural experiences, but we also have vast areas of the country that are currently under-exposed to tourists. According to research shared at ITB Berlin, 9% of travellers feel impaired by overtourism – think August in Venice or December in Camp’s Bay. This is a real opportunity for South Africa. The charm of the Karoo, the Kalahari, the Cape West Coast, the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, to name but a few… Authentic people, age-old traditions, rich cultures… South Africa’s nine provinces with many unfamiliar and unique tourism experiences touch on another Millennial travel insight. Adventure. While a Baby Boomer couple might prefer to stay in and around Cape Town or the Garden Route, the Millennial might just be open to a trip to the Kalahari!
Another area waiting for an innovative approach is the off-season! South Africa is a charmer in summer, but the sun shines year-round and there are many attractions ideal for slightly cooler weather and at a time when rates are lower and availability is better than in peak season. Creating unique offerings for these quieter times and marketing them in a creative manner are very important.
Bleisure is a nothing new, but for the Millennial business travel mixed with leisure is a no-brainer, ensuring loads of potential and a true opportunity for South Africa. Together with off-season tourism, Bleisure is also essential towards year-round job security for those in the tourism and hospitality industries. Such sustainability can ensure skills development, training and better salaries.
Storytelling has become an essential part of any successful marketing strategy. Tourism is all about stories and being innovative in the ways we share them is essential. Being able to tell stories in someone’s mother tongue for instance. As per a tweet of Destinate’s Mariette du Toit-Helmbold: “Good comment from German trade that there are not enough young, professional black tour guides speaking German and other languages to share the real story with guests from their perspective.”
Cooperation between tourism bodies can also open new doors. With 1.2 million visitors a year and a spent of more than R40 billion, Cape Town does not only rely on the mountain and the sea. Wine tourism grew with 15% in the last year and although working together is often regarded as a challenge to South Africans, the cooperation between Wesgro, Vinpro and formal tourism bodies give us a wonderful platform to tell our combined stories.
Being innovative in the way we tell our stories is a wonderful challenge empowered by information and technology. Never before has it been so easy to find research and information – nor has it ever been so important to keep up!