Which source markets will be among the first to resume regular long-haul travel to Africa? And how should you be adapting both your offering and marketing message in order to capture the interest of these travellers who will likely be embarking on journeys with a renewed post-Covid mindset?
This was the topic of an Africa Travel Week Virtual conference session, focusing on the Changing Landscape of Africa’s Source Markets, moderated by tourism and hospitality advisor, Gillian Saunders.
Looking at one of Southern Africa’s biggest source markets, the UK, Chris Mears, CEO of ATTA pointed out that as international leisure travel is currently against the law, there are a lot of variables that will determine how quickly Africa can expect this market to return. The lion’s share of the responsibility sits with the Global Travel Taskforce which has been appointed to advise the Government.
“The key aspects they are looking at are the variants of concern, vaccination roll-outs both here and around the world and understanding around the efficacy of the vaccines,” says Mears, who also pointed out that the lack of data from Africa around Covid statistics was essential to get African destinations off the UK’s Red List.
Another important source market for Africa is the USA, with Gabriella Riberio, Owner of TRUmarketing, pointing out that rather than official bans, the country has issued recommendations, which has resulted in many Americans still being happy to travel wherever they are allowed in.
“People are getting vaccinated quickly and the pent-up demand is here and bigger than ever,” says Ribeiro. “The main challenge we face is airlift. Getting the pieces of the puzzle to fit in terms of testing windows and the lack of non-stop flights affect the destination choice,” she adds.
Also making impressive progress with its vaccination programme is China, which is on track to vaccinate 40% of its population by July and 70% by the end of the year. Dr Marcus Lee, President of the International China Investment Forum, says while only domestic travel is currently permitted, there are some interesting new trends starting to emerge. These include smaller groups, FITs and tailormade travel, along with self-drive growing in popularity.
“The Chinese used to be crazy about shopping, and while this is still a preference, it’s now at the bottom of the list. Now islands rank in first place followed by culture, food and family,” says Dr Lee, who also points out that “lung washing” is a huge trend – with Chinese seeking to travel to destinations with clean air. However, the return of this source market to Africa will depend heavily on Africa’s ability to vaccinate its population.
German travellers are amongst those still able to travel, but the mandatory two-week quarantine following their trip is a major deterrent. Jörg Ehrlich, Managing Director of DIAMIR, says he anticipates that Germany will make a very quick comeback once the quarantine requirement is lifted and points out that Africa could stand to benefit as other destinations, like New Zealand, are likely to remain closed to travel for some time.
“Germans are still travelling now, but in much smaller numbers – about 5% to 10% of pre-Covid numbers mostly to Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and to a lesser extent, South Africa. German tourists will travel even without a vaccination and as a relatively rich country, they have money to spend,” he adds.
Looking ahead to recovery, the panel generally agreed that full recovery should to 2019 levels should happen around 2023, but Ehrlich says the industry needs to consider whether it wants to return to these same numbers, which for the most part comprised of high volume, low profit travel. “Perhaps we can be happy at 75% with more high-level, happy guests who are able to enjoy a huge trip and a wonderful experience,” he concludes.