The requirement for an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) for children of foreign travellers coming into South Africa definitely had a negative effect on family travel but, according to Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa from the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), the market has huge potential now that the UBC issue has been resolved.
“Intergenerational travel has definitely been on the rise, especially in the US market where we are seeing grandchildren and grandparents travelling together,” he says. “We see this a lot in the North American market and also where people are used to group travel, like the African-American market.”
Tshivhengwa says the family market presents different needs when it comes to packages, and the local travel industry is definitely up to the challenge.
“We need to market the destination as family-friendly and cater for group needs in terms of transport, accommodation and activities. We need to tailor-make experiences for families. For example, you wouldn’t go for extreme adventures, you would opt for the softer adventures that everyone can enjoy. We need to think about things such as accessible WiFi, good restaurants and a diversity of experiences.”
He points out that there is an opportunity to invest in a new generation of return traveller.
“Family travel is big and, remember, if you expose young people to the destination, I have no doubt that they will come back one day when they are married, or with their own kids. We need to capture the family market now, and we will get repeat travellers in the future.”
He says inclusive packages work well for this market, and also sees that the mid-range market could benefit from the large family group travelling – as value for money will be one of the core needs.
“Our packages need to have diversity to ensure that the families have good experiences. If the family is going to one of our game reserves, we need to ensure that there is there something for everyone, and that includes adventure as well as cultural experiences that they can take part in.”
School’s out campaign
Tiro Moremi, Brand Manager of aha Hotels and Lodges, says the company is currently running the School’s Out campaign.
This focuses on families travelling with kids, with a range of special offers at various lodges. These include tented suites and family-room options, as well as chalets at a variety of aha properties, including Makalali Private Game Lodge; Thakadu River Camp, Madikwe River Lodge, Bongani Mountain Lodge, Mdluli Safari Lodge, Boulders Safari Lodge and Ivory Tree Game Lodge, as well as a chalet at the Alpine Heath property in the Drakensberg.
While luxury safari lodges in the past used to be strict about having children on safari (the general rule being only children aged 12 and up were allowed), promising adults an exclusive bush experience without the kids, this has changed for many key hospitality brands over the years. Family packages give different options for those travelling with a family entourage but without spoiling the experience for travellers who would prefer a more exclusive experience. Adjusting to the market needs is core to the success of these products.
Two properties that do this exceptionally well are Tintswalo Lapalala in the Lapalala Wilderness Reserve (Waterberg, Limpopo), offering two luxury family tents and tailor-made excursions; and Gondwana Game Reserve on the Garden Route, which also caters for family experiences across its exquisite Big 5 fynbos reserve.
In the Timbavati, tour operators might want to consider Simbavati Machaton Camp or Simbavati River Lodge, both of which fall under the African Inspiration Hotels and Lodges banner. Book out Simbavati Machaton Camp on a sole-use basis (for families travelling with children) or a choice of three family-chalets and at Simbavati River Lodge.