Cape Town – Global trends, news and views in the travel and tourism industry were once again at the forefront of the 2017 World Travel Market (WTM) in London, which concluded on Wednesday, 8 November.
The leading worldwide tourism event saw big announcements regarding SA’s new tourism projects set to boost the local industry and South African tourism products received multiple awards and acknowledgement for their responsible tourism practices.
However, SA lagged behind when it came to the Top 100 City Destinations ranking, with only Johannesburg making the list.
SEE: SA scoops 2 international awards for Responsible Tourism at WTM London 2017
According to market research firm Euromonitor International’s report on the top 100 city destinations, the Middle East and North Africa have “a near-monopoly” on the Middle East and Africa city arrivals in the ranking, with Johannesburg being “the only Sub-Saharan Africa city in the Top 100”.
Johannesburg ranked 37, while Marrakech in Morocco was the only other African country to make the list and was ranked 79.
The report further indicates that performance on the continent has fluctuated due to unrest in many countries and “2017 is expected to be a good year across the board”.
SEE: WTM London 2017: New projects set to transform SA tourism
It adds that while budget hotels are the "standout performers", South Africa and Kenya are expected to have “strong growth in luxury hotels as Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be popular with luxury travellers”.
“South Africa has been identified by short-term rentals platform Airbnb as a key market to enter Africa, and the country is expected to see growth of 32% in 2017,” adds the report.
Breaking African borders
Euromonitor states that while the African Union has plans to create seamless borders that “would greatly benefit the region and the travel industry”, implementation of these plans remain “unclear” and there are challenges to be faced.
The report also highlights that “there are many issues with getting a passport” and “how the AU passport will be distributed is unclear, but already there is criticism that it is initially only for heads of state, rather than ordinary citizens”.
SEE: #AfriTravel: How Africa’s visa-free passport aims to boost tourism and trade
It also states that the travel industry has a role to play by increasing direct air connections between African countries.
“With the strong growth in GDP in many African countries, and a population that is set to grow from 1.2 billion to 1.7 billion by 2030 in the AU member states, there is strong potential for increased business and leisure travel,” adds the report.
According to the report, initiatives to increase domestic travel in Africa and intra-regionally also need to be improved. “African tourist boards will need to shift their focus, as many tend to focus on attracting European and North American travellers instead of their neighbours,” says Euromonitor.
Other highlights from WTM London 2017
Sustainability concerns and overtourism
According to WTM, overtourism remains "a major concern in the context of sustainability" and this was discussed for the headline Responsible Tourism event.
Adama Bah from International Centre for Responsible Tourism West Africa suggested part of the problem is that “governments still think in terms of numbers and not in terms of benefit for communities.”
World Travel Market London, Senior Director, Simon Press, says that “there is a very fine line between successful tourism and overtourism”.
“Tourism is important to local and national economies and many destinations have worked hard to attract visitors over the years. Yet some are now becoming victims of their own success and overtourism is starting to become a real problem,” he says.
SEE: Barcelona struggles with rising tide of tourists
Euromonitor International says that “overcrowding is changing the perception of the benefits of mass tourism” with Barcelona and Venice being high-profile examples of cities struggling with overcrowding. “For Venice, the main culprit is cruise visitors”, says Euromonitor.
Animal attractions are a turn-off
WTM highlights that “8 out of 10 British holidaymakers are not interested in visiting attractions that have performing animals or offer activities with animals outside their natural habitat”.
In response to the question - “When you are on holiday, do you like to visit attractions with performing animals (ie killer whale shows) or those which offer activities with animals (ie elephant rides)?” - 79% replied no, compared to 19% who said yes, the World Travel Market 2017 Industry Report reveals.
“The response demonstrates the extent of the growing backlash against attractions using performing animals,” says WTM.
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA
Digital travel platform Expedia Inc announced that it will “remove tours and attractions that involve certain wildlife interactions from its sites”, while TripAdvisor says it “would no longer sell tickets and activities” that involve animal intercations.
Many tour operators have also altered their packages to not include animal interations – a move welcomed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who says that “Travel shouldn’t include torture, and we urge kind people to skip any attraction that comes at a captive animal’s expense.”
Digital influencers and Travel Tech
WTM says that as more people take inspiration from the growing number of digital channels, the importance of influencers in the marketing mix continues to climb.
PR expert Debbie Hindle, managing director at Four Travel, says at WTM that the influencer and blogging industry “has expanded massively… and while there is still a lot of professionalism to come, there is a huge amount of creativity and passion.”
SEE: iAmbassadors shares some social travelling fun with Traveller24
Meanwhile in the Travel Tech Theatre, specialists shared how to apply some newer technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to travel, “to engage audiences and foster loyalty”.
Chris Elson from Diverse Interactive talked about the emotional attachment that can be built using AR and describes is as “bringing the biggest shift in how we use our mobiles and tablets”.
Ben Smith of Laduma says “We’re in the post-wow era when it comes to these new technologies. We need to be more ambitious. Travel is only scratching the surface with these technologies.”
According to WTM, he advised travel companies to take the passion that made them “fall in love with travel” such as the people and the stories and apply it to AR and VR content, but added to “Treat it as you would every other medium or it will fall flat.”
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