For some, saving up for a family holiday takes months, if not years. For others, international luxury travel is simply a lifestyle. From diamond shopping to chartered helicopter flights, this form of niche tourism is very much alive in Cape Town. What’s interesting, though, is that even wealthy visitors want to travel like locals, to have authentic experiences that don’t necessarily come with a flashy price tag.
At the Virtuoso Symposium held in Cape Town in April, tourism professionals gathered to network and find out more about what’s on in the world of luxury tourism. Essentially, the trends reflect the tourism industry in general but at a higher level.
Across Africa 4 and 5 star hotels are being built, reflecting the demand for conference venues in particular – African meetings, according to the IBTM Trends Watch Report 2015 are in demand, worldwide the growth from 2014-2015 was at 4.5%, across Africa, the growth rate was at 15% for the same period.
While meetings don’t reflect the luxury market necessarily, they contribute to the growth of the tourism industry in general, especially since those who travel for business may come back for leisure purposes or combine leisure and business.
Cape Town has the benefit of being a multi-purpose destination. The luxury market includes those who want the ultimate in lifestyle experiences, and the city offers those in abundance. From active experiences in nature to high-end retail adventures, there’s something for everyone. The luxury traveller may invest in property, art or businesses while visiting a country, all contributing to the economy on a much wider scale.
Luxury hotels provide for this niche market extensively, with offerings such as personal assistants, butlers, concierges, chauffeurs and security details.
For business owners aiming to attract these luxury tourists the challenge lies with marketing their businesses to tour operators or to the luxury traveller in person. Networking for this purpose remains valuable as word-of-mouth advertising is about reputation.
The travel like a local trend is alive in the luxury tourism segment, with luxury travellers wanting, more than ever, to have off-brochure experiences as recommended by locals. Restaurants ebb and flow in popularity, so the only way to find out about what’s hot at the moment is to speak to a local whose opinions you value. For tour operators, this presents an opportunity: how can they bring visitors into contact with locals and experiences they’ll enjoy?
Cape Town is fortunate in that both cruise ship berthing and Cape Town International Airport have increased their capacity over the past year, both of these representing continued demand for entrance to the city. A luxury traveller may use Cape Town as a stepping stone to other parts of the country, disembarking from a cruise ship to take a private jet to Kruger National Park, for example.
Privacy is valued. Although many well-known actors and businesspeople visit South Africa, venues and tour operators that value the privacy of their guests during exclusive activities are appreciated and the word gets out. While a visitor may want to participate in some exclusive diamond shopping with a private viewing, they may not want the world to know.
Luxury travellers, like any other visitors, do not want to be exploited; while the exchange rate is favourable to international visitors, they still appreciate the perception of value for money. The temptation is for local tourism businesses to raise their prices unreasonably, but this can leave a bad taste in visitors’ mouths, and, worse still, price local visitors out of the market.
I’d encourage those operating in this environment to build leak-proof reputations when it comes to service and in providing fresh approaches to what they have to offer the luxury visitor.
With Cape Town bagging two major accolades recently, the 2015-16 Telegraph Travel Awards choosing Cape Town as Best City (for the fourth year running) and, in Condé Nast’s Reader’s Choice Awards, Cape Town taking the honour as the number one food city in the world everyone is looking to the city and the rest of South Africa to set the mark in global travel.