The long-stay business traveller and the luxury traveller will lead the recovery for tourism to Africa in 2022. This is according to a travel review presented by ForwardKeys at WTM Africa recently.
Luis Millan, Head of Research at ForwardKeys, explained that long-stay travellers have shown the most resilience over the past months. Next in line has been the luxury, high-end market with travellers willing to spend more on premium services to Africa.
Millan said that whereas global markets have relied heavily on inter-regional travel, the situation for Africa is very different. He explained that African tourism is driven mainly by long-haul travel, with the top three source markets currently leading the recovery for Africa being France, the US and the UK.
Interestingly, African tourism performed above the global benchmark in 2021. In 2021, arrivals to Africa were down 64% compared to 2019 as opposed to 74% internationally. Global recovery picked up pace in 2022, and arrivals for Africa are currently only 33% down compared to 2019.
According to Millan, traveller confidence is steadily improving, as reflected in the recovery after the announcement of the Omicron variant. “This recovery has happened faster than other crises. It’s a sign that traveller confidence has increased,” he said.
These data insights are crucial for African destinations if they want to better understand the customer journey and the opportunities available to them in a post-COVID world.
One example Millan highlighted was the opportunity presented by the end of the Ramadan festivities in the Middle East. When looking at the available data, end-of-Ramadan holidaymakers have shown a significant increase in travel intentions. “Sub Saharan Africa is only capturing 2% of that market currently, which means that there is an opportunity to develop attractions for this market,” said Millan.
For South Africa, specifically, Millan pointed out that there has been a marked increase in interest from US travellers wanting to visit the country. Flight searches from the US for South Africa increased significantly between January and February this year. “By identifying travel trends in real-time, destinations can identify incredible opportunities, said Millan.
Robert Manson, Chief Digital Transformation, Technology, Data Analytics and Insights Officer for South African Tourism, agreed and said it is imperative that the provinces and country use data to understand the customer journey better.
“We need to understand what tourists want to do after two years of travel restrictions so that we can drive tourism,” said Manson. “Data also helps us create a conducive environment that will attract airline partners and improve connectivity to South Africa. We are actively working to drive connectivity and create an appetite for airlines to come to our country.”