In a world where information is accessible at the click of a button or the tap of a finger, travellers now have the ability to research, book and plan a holiday with very little effort. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has brought a new era for the travel and tourism industry, resulting in a more informed and independent travel consumer.

Although technology has made planning a holiday more convenient, traditional scheduled guided tours remain top of mind for guests looking for authentic experiences, highlighting the destination over a shorter travel period.

Having a trusted ground handler with in-depth knowledge acquired over years of experience allows tour operators to offer their guests a holiday filled with iconic highlights quickly and with little effort required. Routes are mapped out, itineraries are researched and planned, and when all these ingredients are put together, the recipe produces an unforgettable experience.

Martin Wiest, CEO of Tourvest Destination Management, believes that scheduled guided tours have been on a gradual decline for the last 10 years in terms of passenger numbers as a function of changes in consumer behaviour. These changes include younger and more English-language-proficient foreign travellers entering the market, who tend to be adventurous enough to opt for a self-drive holiday.

Wiest maintains an optimistic outlook nonetheless, saying that “scheduled guided tours will experience an upward trajectory in the coming years, as it becomes more relevant due to the inverted age pyramid. This will see the passenger numbers within our core source markets increase as the average age of travellers increases, shifting self-drive holidaymakers back into scheduled touring product”.

According to Wiest: “The type of travellers that book our scheduled guided tours are of an older demographic, prefer not to drive themselves, and want to avoid having to deal with language barriers and safety concerns. Our modular scheduled guided tour is of a nature where there are fewer people per vehicle and allows the consumer a better way of aligning their dream holiday with a reality.”

Tesna Simonsen George, Director of Luxury Representation Collection, says: “For the UK market, scheduled guided tours are becoming less relevant. We find that it is mainly older clients who feel more comfortable on a guided tour. They enjoy the social interaction and meeting other travellers. Solo travellers are also likely to book scheduled tours, as they will have people to interact with and won't have to stress about getting themselves around the country. Many of the travellers are more likely to book a South African tour through a well-known group operator who runs their own tours.”

Simonsen George believes that the majority of travellers will self-drive because it is very easy for UK tourists to travel around by themselves. “There are no language barriers in South Africa and we drive on the same side of the road.”

Wiest concludes: “Different types of scheduled and modular tours exist in a number of destinations aimed at specific consumer needs and behaviours. They still have a major role to play specifically in the African tourism market; a number of owners and operators believe that this product is sustainable going into the future and so do we.”