With most of the world still in lockdown and travel timelines up in the air, South African travellers – and those around the globe – have little idea of how, where or when they might travel again.
But industry experts generally agree on three things:
- South African domestic travel will come back first. Think road trips, long weekends and ‘off-the-beaten- track’ holiday experiences with family and friends.
- Young (or not so young) adventurers and die-hard bargain seekers will be the first to head off on solo trips.
- Sustainable travel is going to become increasingly important.
If they are correct, can we predict what the post-COVID South African domestic traveller will look like? And how can SMMEs start preparing for their arrival?
While it’s impossible to develop one definitive profile for the domestic traveller, here are just a few things to keep in mind:
For the past decades, travel has seen a gradual move towards digital platforms with travellers wanting to gather information, reach out to suppliers and even book online. The COVID crisis has fast-tracked this evolution with most prospective travellers now online and avidly looking for holiday options after restrictions are lifted.
SMMEs should make sure they have a booking tool in place, so that it’s easy for this new digital traveller to make a booking on the website.
Road trips and wanderlust
The days of cheap air tickets are over. Attempts at social distancing on flights (for example, keeping the middle seat free), coupled with a high demand for air travel once our skies reopen, means the cost of air tickets will continue to rise.
The South African domestic traveller will be looking at ultra-local, intra and inter-provincial travel to ease their wanderlust, in other words, road trips!
SMMEs need to sell their establishment as the perfect road trip pitstop, stop-over or diversion – or join up with others to create a unique ‘route’ through their region. Road trippers will lead the way, it’s time to get on the map.
After a sobering few months at home, those venturing out will want their travel to count. Think bucket-list adventures and unique experiences. Do you offer an out-of-the-ordinary excursion or activity? Make sure you target young (and not so young) adventures desperate for their next thrill.
Solo travellers and small groups
This is the time of the solo traveller and fully-independent traveller (FIT) – those looking for an alternative to mass-tourism packages in order to maintain physical distancing.
If you can provide a safe tourism experience for solo travellers, or can tailor your offering to small groups at a time, you already have an advantage in our post-COVID world. Think wellness, spiritual or yoga retreats, along with authentic experience which appeal to nature-loving individuals wanting to get into the great outdoors.
Family and skip-gen travel
After weeks of separation, families are looking to spend quality time with each other once again. Families will be keen to rent off-the-beaten track, self-catering accommodation where they can connect with family and friends far from the madding crowd.
Multi-generational travel and ‘skip gen travel’, already gaining popularity over the last few years, will continue to grow.
This includes empty nesters enjoying holidays with their adult children, to multi-generation families celebrating special milestone holidays and celebrations together.
‘Skip-gen’ holidays see grandparents taking their grandchildren away on vacation – an increasingly popular choice for grandparents who want to bond with their grandchildren. This year, when parents have little leave available after a long lockdown, grandparents may take their grandchildren away for a short break over the school holidays.
The key ingredients for each? A range of activities and excursions appealing to family members of all ages – and the freedom to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Sustainable travel is built on the principle of treading lightly: minimizing your impact on the environment, reducing your carbon footprint, making a positive contribution in terms of wildlife or environmental conservation and ensuring that local communities benefit from tourism (for example, buying local and supporting community guides, experiences and accommodation options).
For the South African domestic traveller, responsible, sustainable travel is going to be increasingly important. Eco lodges and community-based tourism offerings may have the edge over larger establishments – especially if they can offer a sustainable experience at a fair price.
But perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind, especially in the near-term, is that the South African domestic traveller needs to feel safe above all else, and tourism establishments will need to ensure a worry-free stay or experience.
SMMEs will need to put strict measures and protocols in place (following WHO guidelines and best practice) in order to guarantee their guests a hygienic, healthy and happy stay.