Where are the opportunities for growth as we head into the new decade? What new and exciting experiences are available for tour operators to sell the brand and market South Africa as a destination that is so much more than Cape Town, the Garden Route and the Kruger?

SATSA’s David Frost says developing adventure tourism is a fantastic opportunity for growing South Africa’s inbound tourism.

“For this to happen, we are pursuing a private-public sector partnership to develop a self-regulated growth strategy around adventure tourism for South Africa and have submitted a proposal to the Collaboration Fund to get funding for it.”

Travel expert and trendwatcher, Gillian Saunders says: “What are the opportunities for 2020? Right now, sports tourism (Barmy Army now; build on the Springboks’ World Cup victory towards the Lions tour in 2021); the international school and youth markets (no Unabridged Birth Certificates); and I think we may just be seeing the nascent domestic leisure tourism industry starting to take off. There is far more anecdotal evidence around of black South Africans travelling as tourists – this is a growing opportunity.”  

Suzanne Bayly-Coupe owner of Classic Portfolio sees a number of opportunities for the travel industry in 2020.

“Using technology for ease of working with all our trade partners and creating more integrated online availability platforms. Driving new narratives with transparency around sustainability. More active participation and learning experiences on safari. Seeking off-the-beaten-path, remote, untouched true wilderness areas with expedition-style trips led by private guides. Growing awareness around understanding our impact – carbon footprint – as well as more conscious decision-making when it comes to which lodges and hotels to choose.”


Taking sustainability seriously

Natalia Rosa from Big Ambitions points out that there is the opportunity to position South Africa as a destination that takes sustainability seriously.

“As the fires in Australia rage, and the spectre of climate change looms over us, as a long-haul destination we are at great threat of being affected by the growing flight-shaming movement.

“We are world leaders in sustainable tourism and yet we don’t tell others about the good work that we do. How can we amplify what we’re doing? How can we inspire the tourism sector to do more tomorrow, than what they are doing today?”

Based along the tourist-friendly wine routes of the Western Cape, Boschendal CEO, Brett Wilks agrees with Rosa and says the sensitivity to environmental disasters will shape the future choices of travellers when planning their trips.


Watch the wellness trend

Wilks believes when it comes to trends, sustainable tourism is key and adds that, in his view, wellness is the sector to watch.

“Travellers will seek out unique experiential destinations that enhance their internal wellbeing and mitigate the environmental impact of their travel choices. Wellness is becoming a multitrillion-dollar industry and will attract competitors. Properties or businesses that evolve from health retreats and spas to embedding regenerative nutrition, fitness and experiences into everyday operations, will be more attractive longer term. This is so positive for South Africa because we offer so many experiences that rejuvenate and refresh mind, body and soul.”


The Meetings Industry

Glenton de Kock, CEO of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) says: “The current economic climate is a major challenge for the meetings industry.  It requires constant innovation, not only to differentiate a service or product, but to add value and offer real return on investment. Competition in the industry is increasingly tough.

A broader challenge for the industry is to illustrate that business events form an integral part of the knowledge economy and are much more than just a form of tourism.

He says SAACI is sticking to its game plan based on the pillars: Learning, growth and collaboration, and projects planned for 2020 include a comprehensive study about the value of and latest trends in the industry and a fresh marketing campaign.

“Without a doubt, a highlight of the year will be our annual congress in Johannesburg in July.  Its theme, ‘Welcoming the unknown’, could certainly not be more timely and apt!”