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SA out-prices itself for UK market
South African Tourism has positioned South Africa as a luxury tourist destination for British tourists, limiting the country’s tourism growth potential at a time when the UK market is undergoing seismic change because of the economic recession.

This is the warning from Cape Town Tourism (CTT) UK representative, Mary Tebje, who presented her UK market insights during a market intelligence session hosted by CTT recently.

She said the UK market was heavily hit by the recession and fear of debt was omnipresent, as evidenced by the 60 000 Brits who stayed at home last year. She said a further deterrent to travel were the £1bn raised annually in Air Passenger Duty (APD). An 8% increase in APD from April 1 will add up to £300 onto the price of a flight to South Africa. As a result, one in 10 British holiday-makers is swapping long-haul for short-haul holidays to reduce the cost of flights. Travel from the UK to South Africa was down 8.8% last year (versus 4% down from Europe). She said fewer Brits were taking a main holiday and instead taking shorter breaks. British families and the middle class were particularly heavily hit by the recession. Those not staying at home opted for cheaper camping trips in France.

 “The volume and value of holidays taken by the Brits are going down.  This means the South African travel industry must look at what value they are offering on the ground!” she stressed.

More Brits are also expected to stay at home this upcoming European summer because of the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee. Meanwhile other African countries are successfully diverting traffic from South Africa.  Traffic to North Africa dropped 30% because of the political turmoil there, but West Africa (Senegal, Mali and Ghana), Rwanda and Ethiopia are benefiting from this by offering well-priced products, whereas Namibia and Botswana are perceived as premium destinations and are pricing themselves out of the UK market, Tebje said.

She said British tourists are swopping camping with “glamping” (glamorous camping); cruising is booming and mortgage-free British “baby-boomers” are still taking as many as four foreign holidays a year.  Some 70% of Brits visiting South Africa are leisure tourists, 25% are VFR’s and most are repeat visitors. “They tend to go for self-catering, VFR, hospital beds (medical tourism), hotels and guesthouses, in that order,” Tebje said. “Many feel like locals and are now ready to experience the secondary product level around theatre, live music and events, which gives smaller operators an opportunity.”

She suggested the local travel industry get involved with local communities and events to reach visiting VFR’s; to spread the word on social media networks; and to provide good value.

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