The US, UK and Germany are key markets for Southern Africa’s safari product. Tessa Reed chats to members of the industry about the trends playing out in these markets.
All travellers are looking for different experiences, says Wayne Pritchard, MD at Wilderness Explorer. “I think that this will begin to change the mind-set of the typical traveller,” he says. “These travellers are likely to deviate from ‘check list’ approach, to one which includes real experiences.” Pritchard adds that he is seeing the emergence of an adventure travel market for the discerning client. “I think this will prompt development of product for this segment.” Likewise, Michelle Hollis Sales Manager for Isibindi Africa Lodges, says guests are increasingly looking for a different and unique safari experience.
According to Craig Drysdale, GM: Global Sales at Thompsons Africa, youth travel is up from the US, UK and Germany.
Both Ronnie Harris of US-based Under African Skies and Alessandra Allemann, Sales and Marketing Director of Welcome Tourism Services, say family travel and multi-generational travel continues to grow. Likewise Julian Asher of Timeless Africa, is seeing more multigenerational trips out of this market. According to Drysdale, this trend is also helped by the exchange rate. He explains that families can now afford to bring their children and grandchildren along when they travel.
Harris points out that holiday time from the US is extremely short compared to Europe and other places in the word, with the result that travel times is compact. “Families only have probably 10 days to be together so they do not want to spend time apart,” she says “Family units are in demand,” says Harris, adding that lodges and camps that offer family experiences while still keeping other adult guests away from the families with the kids will be in demand. Likewise, Allemann says private services such as villas and private guided services are more in demand for this market.
Craig van Rooyen, Director at Tour d'Afrique, says finding lodges for families is a challenge. “We do have a challenge with families that are travelling with much younger children and there are not many lodges that cater for young children under five years old. If they do you are normally required to take a private safari vehicle which adds a big cost to the safari.”
Onne Vegter, Director of Wild Wings Safaris, has seen an increase in US and UK clients booking guided tours rather than cheap self-drive tours. He puts this down to this being more affordable with the weakened rand. Related to this, Vegter has seen an increase in guests opting for more upmarket product. “For example,” he says “some clients are now considering 5 star properties where previously their budget may only have permitted them to look at 4 star properties.”
According to Vegter, while clients are not necessarily staying longer as a result of the weaker rand, they are more willing to upgrade the experience and consider slightly more upmarket options. However, Allemann is seeing that in the US market, longer stay safaris are becoming more popular.
Asher says that US travellers do not want to move around as much as in the past and are choosing to see less places, but spend more time there. He says this is particularly true of families and older travellers, who have more time. Asher has also seen an increase in US travellers seeking out cultural experiences to combine with a safari.
While millennials traditionally book a lot of their travel by themselves, according to Asher they prefer to book for Africa through the trade. “These are young professionals that make good money, but don’t have hundreds of hours to trawl through everything,” he says. “They are starting to realise that if they want value for money, they can benefit from working with someone that can help them.” He adds that many millennials will book Cape Town themselves, but they will book the safari leg and Johannesburg with an expert.
According to Katja Quasdorf, Product and Marketing Director for Jenman Safaris, the US market continues to book by brands. “They want to have the One and Only, the Victoria Falls Hotel, the Victoria and Alfred Hotel, Wilderness and &Beyond,” she says.
According to Vivian McCarthy, GM at UK-based Acacia Africa, experiential travel continues to be a key driver of tourism to Southern Africa. “UK travellers want to go further than the traditional 4X4 game drive and to engage with their environment” he says. He also says that UK travellers are increasingly visiting non-profit projects as part of their safari package.
“The number of singles opting for group safaris is on the rise,” says McCarthy, adding that many of these are female travellers in the 18-35 age group. Quasdorf has also seen an increase in the group travel market out if the UK, although she says the market is still characterised by tailor-made itineraries. According to Drysdale, there has been an increase in all segments from the British market. “Even the guy on the dole can afford to travel to South Africa,” he says.
McCarthy has also seen an increase in millennials choosing to upgrade their accommodation from camping to guest houses and B&Bs while on safari.
According to McCarthy, Mozambique is making a comeback in this market. “Mozambique is firmly back on the map with advisories lifted for UK travellers: it’s a rising star on the overland circuit and a major draw for those seeking adventure, perhaps from the 18-39s,” he says.
Dirk Brunner, MD and owner of Munich-based afrika tours individuell, says German clients in all market segments are increasingly looking for adventures, including shark cage diving, mountain biking, hiking and surfing. Likewise, Quasdorf says the German market is becoming more adventurous and booking more travel to Zimbabwe and Botswana. Brunner has also seen an increase in German clients taking self-drive holidays, especially in South Africa and Namibia.
According to Rolf Stolzenwald, of German-based SA Landprogramm, more and more German guests are booking at private game lodges. “Guests rather book cheaper hotels during their journey and stay in private lodges with open vehicle safaris,” he says. Stolzenwald adds that the combination of Garden Route and gameviewing is becoming increasingly popular in the German market. “There are very good game lodges in the Eastern and Western Cape,” he says, adding that it saves the guests the additional cost of flights to Kruger.
According to Brunner, South Africa is also attracting German clients the whole year round, while there is an increase in the number of families traveling in the German summer holidays, which take place in August and September. He says the feedback from clients concerning value for money is excellent and they all report that they had a wonderful experience. “They were surprised by the friendliness of the people, by very good food and of course all the highlights the various countries have to offer,” he says.
According to Allemann, booking a safari has always been one of the top highlights in the Germanic markets and will always remain as such because it’s perceived to be an exotic experience. “The more personalised a safari experience is, the better the highlight for them,” she says, adding that it is all about experiences.
Quasdorf says Germans are travelling for longer again. “Previously we saw that they were booking shorter tours of 10 to 14 days, whereas they are now again comfortable booking a three week safari.”