German arrivals in South Africa are on the rise, with South African Tourism reporting an increase of 15.4% between 2016 and 2017. Cape Town is a major drawcard for this market and Wesgro reports that German arrivals at Cape Town International Airport have grown 12% from 50 450 in 2016 to 56 573 this year. The organisation adds that the German market’s direct spend in the Western Cape over the past year totalled R2.2 billion (€1.3 million), while paid-for accommodation in Cape Town grew 15.9% from 206 435 visitors in 2016 to 239 264 in 2017.

Industry members agree that this rise is due to a combination of the weakened rand, an increase in terrorism in other destinations and, to a lesser extent, the increase in German life expectancy to 81 years, allowing for an increase in travel activity.

With growth forecast to continue next year, Tourism Update looks at three ways to capitalise on it by tapping into the latest market trends.

1.Offer shorter tour packages

Michael Frauen, CEO of Pearls of Africa, a South African and German-based marketing consultancy that works in conjunction with Lukimbi Safari Lodge, says German clients now spend an average of 14 days travelling per trip. “As a result of the current economic climate in Germany, employees are increasingly being advised not to take more than 14 days’ holiday at one time, on average. As a result, whereas the trend used to be to take a 17- to 21-day African tour, the market is increasingly interested in shorter packages.”

Martin Weist, CEO of Tourvest Destination Management, says while the typical first-time German holiday used to include Cape Town, the Garden Route and KZN, the last two have started to fall away. “Cape Town hasn’t been affected, but German travellers are definitely seeing less of the country per trip, on average, than they used to.”

Wesgro’s statistics echo this trend, reflecting an average 12-night stay for German travellers in the Western Cape. Frauen adds that while the older generation may still be able to take three-week vacations, the market is in transition, with shorter packages set to become the over-arching trend.

2.Aim for simplicity

Nicky Coenen, General Manager of The Last Word Boutique Hotels, reports that German travellers want simplicity.

“They want to slow down and completely unburden themselves by engaging with the experience on offer. Small, boutique and intimate hotels are in huge demand and the travellers staying at these hotels want an ultra-immersive experience.”

Frauen explains that the requirement for simplicity is linked to the reduced holiday time. “If you only have a 14-day break you want to relax and switch off during this time. You don’t want to be pushed to travel 400-500km a day to see attractions. As a result, a growing trend sees German travellers staying at least two to three nights per accommodation.”

Coenen adds that family-owned properties are becoming a big drawcard, as they fulfil a traveller’s need to make meaningful, local connections. “Culinary experiences are also increasing in demand and are not limited to dining out. They can include cooking experiences, farm tours and food markets and should be tied into the culture of the location.”

Catherine Entwistle, owner of Val du Charron, says younger Germans are increasingly engaging in multi-generational travel. “These guests want to live like the locals. Thus, the more off-the-beaten-track venues are growing in popularity. Our guests want an authentic experience – everything from home-made, locally sourced South African food to artisanal wines and the feeling that they are part of our working farm’s life.”

Wiest believes the product range on offer has to increasingly appeal to a self-drive market. “Accommodation offers need to be smaller, more personal, guesthouse-type establishments. The industry needs to work on providing a wider selection of this type of accommodation, in a commercially viable manner.”

The industry reports that the German market is also sensitive to eco-tourism and products that are socially responsible. Click here to read more (link to second story).

3.Update your ‘sales funnel’

According to Frauen, although this market engages with the traditional channels of travel distribution, the digital world has brought about a few noteworthy changes.

“The German population totals 87 million and, of this, 88% have access to the Internet. We cannot afford to underestimate the impact that this is having.”

The medium through which these travellers are becoming aware of South Africa as a travel destination has evolved. “Word-of-mouth influence results in 59% of German bookings. This influence can come from speaking to friends who have travelled to South Africa or, increasingly, from the reported experiences of bloggers and TV presenters from travel documentaries.”

The statistics show that 48% of the market do their own research about travel online, while 59% base their decision on TV documentaries or YouTube vlogs.

In other changes, a Deloitte survey shows that SMS is used by 31% fewer people than four years ago, with 70% using WhatsApp and 60% using email.

“I would suggest developing a WhatsApp line where clients can send in questions and the business can respond. It is the fastest form of communication and it is important to incorporate it in your strategy for sales conversion and customer service delivery,” says Frauen.

On the other hand, the stats show that, despite these changes, catalogues remain king. Frauen says a recent study with more than 500 participants found that three-quarters of sales consultants in Germany saw brochures as necessary, with 31% saying they promote products based on what is in brochures. Further, 70% of German travel experts say potential customers take catalogues home.

As a result, emphasis needs to be placed on the type of information that is provided in a catalogue, says Frauen. “The better the information available, the better the chance that the consultant will seal the deal. This is something local business should explore when they discuss their next brochure contribution with their tour operator.”

Ken Hill, CEO of Drifters Adventours, adds that upfront and honest marketing is the way to woo German travellers. “Cut the flowery marketing, the Germans prefer a direct approach.”