Travel trends are evolving, where a journey no longer starts when a traveller reaches the destination, but begins from the first interactions with the potential destination and travel organiser. From the beginning of the research process, travellers are opened up to good (or bad) experiences, from websites related to the destination, social media, interaction with travel planners telephonically or in person – and each part of the process builds the full experience. This plays a vital role driving a return client, and return visit.

“For us it all starts with the information given to potential clients,” says Christiaan Steyn, Marketing Manager of Drifters Adventours, a Division of Tourvest. And it is vital that the information given aligns with the actual experience throughout the journey. “When clients know what they are signing up for, the expectations are aligned with the product, and then we can offer clients a great experience from start to finish.”

Craig Glatthaar, Business Manager of Wilderness Safaris, concurs. “It is vital to set the right expectations prior to travel, and to truly listen to the needs of each individual person in order to match the right experiences with the right guests. Then, once travellers reach their destination, every small detail becomes important in creating a perfect travel masterpiece.”

Shifting trends

Trends indicate that travellers are increasingly expecting more from their travel experiences, and attention to detail plays an important role in the overall experience. Knowing as much about each customer as possible, and pre-empting needs that may arise, delivers a value-added experience that leaves a positive impression on a customer. Drifters, for example, has USB facilities for each client in its vehicles, which also have custom-built fridges on board so drinks and snacks can remain cold, says Steyn.

Another trend that is emerging is travellers wanting to keep as much of their experience as possible under one roof, says Lisa Goosen, CEO of Tintswalo Lodges. “For example, using hotel transfers instead of hiring shuttles; or using hotel-guided excursions. Lodges need to almost have a concierge service to coordinate a traveller’s full experience of their destination.”

The role of technology

Technology has an impact on the traveller experience, playing a multi-faceted role – from research and connectivity, to booking and communication. “Technology has brought the destination of choice to the palm of the user’s hand in the form of our mobile phones – travellers can literally research, plan, extract reviews, interact and connect with the destination, and get a true feel for the location on various digital platforms and supplier websites,” says Deidre Broodryk-Ward, International Sales Manager of aha Hotels & Lodges. She says aha ensures that it has a pro-active strategy in place to ensure that a guest’s experience is met from the moment they interact online. Data and analytics are reviewed to understand what the users are ultimately seeking before they book and confirm their visit.

Drifters also embraces technology to enhance its customer experience offering: “Our reservations system displays a live availability on tour departures ensuring that partners can book with confidence,” says Steyn. Tintswalo uses technology to better monitor guest reviews and feedback, which helps to refine service as well as streamlining Tintswalo’s booking and confirmation processes, from multiple platforms, adds Goosen.

She does, however, note that face-to-face, personal interaction is still vital in customer experience: “Tintswalo prides itself on offering old-fashioned, personal, face-to-face service.” Nic Griffin, CEO of Thornybush Luxury Game Lodge Collection, concurs. “Consistent human touch with great service and the bush animal experience are still the main drawcards to a wonderful wildlife experience.”