The Asian market is keen on safaris but most travellers have little time, which proves challenging to operators packaging for this market. Tessa Reed chats to the industry about how best to package for this market.


SA Tourism targets two key segments in the Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets for safaris, says Bradley Brouwer, SA Tourism President: Asia Pacific. These are the “next stop South Africa” group, which consists of pensioners and people with disposable income as well as the “wanderlusters”, which is a younger segment ranging from 20 to 35 years old. He says these segments are all keen on safaris in Africa.


Craig Drysdale, GM: Global Sales at Thompsons Africa, says that of the Asian markets, the Japanese market is incredibly keen on safaris, adding that Botswana is a big draw card for them. “Traditionally the demographic is 55 plus,” he says, adding that there are also younger travellers who are after experiential safari travel. This group of young professionals is growing. “These young professionals are qualifying younger and earning good money.” Drysdale adds that this group of young professionals is also keen to travel before settling down.


According to Brouwer, the challenge with the Asian market is that their time is very short. The Chinese market tends to only spend one night in a reserve if they are on a package, says Brouwer “They have got to arrive in an afternoon, do an afternoon game drive and then a morning game drive the next morning and then leave,” he says. He explains that this market have very little annual leave and tend to travel for between eight and 14 days, two of which are spent travelling. During this time they want to see as much of the country as possible. Likewise, Drysdale points out that this market doesn’t want to do safari only but is after packages with a wide variety. “They want to see a little bit of everything.” He says that a safari should form two to three days of a safari package.


As a result of the limited time that the Asian market will spend on safari, Brouwer says they prefer to go to the Kruger National Park and Pilanesberg, where they are more likely to see the Big Five in a short space of time. “Addo Elephant Park has also been a good one for us,” he says. “They need to see everything and they need to leave,” he says. Brouwer also points out that many of these travellers are keen to take pictures of wildlife quickly while on a game drive and then move on to the next sighting. He explains that they are looking to come back with a lot of photos of different animals to show their friends. “The brag factor is very important to all of them.”


However, at the same time, many Asian travellers do not only focus on seeing the Big Five and have an appreciation for birds and plants, says Brouwer.


The Asian market, while predominantly a group market, is also showing growth in the FIT market for China, Japan and Korea, says Brouwer. He says this market like to take a bit more time on their safari, spending two or more nights. This tends to be a more upmarket segment who also take more annual leave.


Both Brouwer and Onne Vegter, Director of Wild Wings Safaris, point out that the FIT segment out of the Asian market is a high-end segment and books luxury lodges. “The Japanese and Taiwanese stay at luxury lodges,” says Takayuki Suzuki, Japan Manager at Your Africa. According to Brouwer, he is also seeing a little bit more self-drive out of this market, although they tend to want to travel with a guide.


Both Suzuki and Michael McCall, Sanctuary Retreats Director of Sales Australia, New Zealand & Asia, say Asian travellers prefer all-inclusive packages. “They prefer to have all arrangements made for them making the stay as hassle-free as possible,” says McCall. “FIT for us dominates this market.  We sell to this segment by offering unique experiences of an all-inclusive nature whilst enjoying a luxury lodge as their base.”


According to Brouwer, packaging safaris with a cruise is popular with this market. “We used to have bush and beach, but now bush and sea cruise is working very well.” Extensions to Victoria Falls is also popular with this market. According to Brouwer, particularly the Japanese market is keen on the flower season. “We’ll package a lot around that.”


A lot of the younger Asian travellers are keen on walking safaris. “The younger generation are far more adventurous,” says Drysdale. According to McCall, a large proportion of travellers are from the heavily populated Asian cities, so on their holiday they like to experience something totally different, thus walking safaris and animal interaction are high on their ‘to do’ list.


Brouwer emphasises the need to accommodate cultural differences with this market. “It’s good to brief well before a game drive. “Our experience is that Asian clients often have high standards and high expectations, so communicating clearly about expectations is also important, to avoid unrealistic expectations about game viewing, weather, meals or other issues that may cause disappointment or frustration if expectations are not met,” says Vegter. “If you are flexible, communicate well and maintain high standards of cultural respect and customer service, the Asian market can be very rewarding.”