The domestic tourism industry is still facing the challenge of getting locals more interested in exploring their own country before they aspire to overseas destinations, according to panellists speaking on a webinar hosted by Johannesburg in Your Pocket city guides on July 22.
Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism, stressed that it was necessary for all members of the travel and tourism industry to get involved in strengthening domestic tourism, because this would ultimately strengthen all tourism into South Africa.
“The local tourism sector is more pointed towards international travellers; there is a high concentration on the market overseas. However, if you look at some of the strongest economies, these are built on the foundation of domestic travel first then international,” said Ntshona.
Travel experience curator, Senzelwe Mthembu, added that it was also up to travellers to change their perceptions to change how they experience domestic travel. “We perceive domestic travel to be unwelcoming, expensive and we think we’re not the target market.”
Travel journalist Jared Ruttenberg, agreed and said South Africans were also guilty of seeing domestic travel as second rate compared with international destinations. Jared regularly profiles luxury establishments and, in his opinion, if everyone looked more closely, they would find that the local experience was of the same standard as international properties and cost less.
“Currently, game lodges are being forced to simplify and reduce costs. Many places have discounted SADC rates for South Africans but don’t regularly advertise these on the website. However, it is worth sending an email directly to the property to ask them what their special rates for locals are,” said Ruttenberg.
“As SA Tourism,” said Ntshona, “we do not have control over what operators price their products at, but we do ask them please to make special rates if possible. This is a moment now to move more towards dynamic pricing, for tourists to understand better times of year when they can travel at a cheaper price and, similarly, for properties to offer more variations in prices for seasons rather than a simple peak/off-peak rate. There is also an issue of packaging. There is a certain lack of diversity in the travel packages and operators will need to be ready to add more layers and flexibility.”