Hello 2020! The biggest changes to the way we travel in the last decade

2019-12-31 04:45 - Selene Brophy
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Technology combined with travel has been one of the most disruptive forces.

As the editor of Traveller24, I've seen the world of Travel and Tourism go through many changes from 2010 to 2019. In fact the site itself was re-imagined all of three times in the last decade, having previously been GoTravel24, then News24 Travel and now finally your digital travel destination of choice. 

But what has remained a constant, more than all the changes, is that South Africans love to travel - near or far - even with the exchange-rate crunch. So, as we head into 2020, it's poignant to look back at the biggest changes of the last decade that have shaped our travel habits.

READ: New decade, new you - which of these trends will shape your 2020 travel plans?

Travellers are more aware of travel's environmental impact  

Nature travel, sustainable travel, eco-travel, responsible travel - all of the above. 

This one will continue to shape the way we travel for decades to come. If not, we might not have the actual luxury of exploring far-flung, natural destinations - with this UN Climate Change report on the loss of 1 million species to date worth reading. 

READ: How SA airports (and some spekboom) are fighting long-haul 'flight shame' 

But while travellers are more determined to make sustainable travel choices as they weigh how their money spent on activities or stays contributes to improving the lives of those on the ground - they can feel overwhelmed and under-informed.

Going forward this puts the onus on the industry more than ever before to come up with useful ways to encourage and educate the responsible, green traveller. 

READ: #EcoTravels: A beginner's guide

Experience-rich travel, collecting memories not things

In line with being mindful of our planet and its finite resources, travellers have gravitated to the idea of investing in experience-rich travel as opposed to collecting objects and things.

Travel brands, attractions and destinations have in fact repositioned themselves in the face of over tourism - as has been the case with Cuba, Iceland and Croatia - just some of the destinations that have had to deal with this impact.   

From recharging in nature, to learning about a destination's culture, to seeking an adventure of a lifetime - the experience and the memories we make remain at the heart of it all.  

READ: Cape Town makes it onto a 'no go' travel list, but it's not about tourists' safety

Airbnb, Uber and WhatsApp 

Disruption has been the name of the game for the past couple of years, from Netflix to Spotify as industry-altering innovations - and even more so as Airbnb and Uber have completely changed our approach to booking accommodation or transport.

These apps use the very best aspects of the Internet, mobile, and social media to give us flexibility and choice unheard of before their existence. Their successes have not been without its pitfalls as privacy and regulation issues have shown - but ultimately exploring the world is much better thanks to them.  

READ: Thresholds to be put in place, limiting amount of bookable days in South African Airbnbs

Add to this, our way of keeping in touch with friends and family have taken on another dimension thanks to the prolific messaging app, WhatsApp. While previously we'd avoid voice or video calls for fear of exorbitant roaming rates - WhatsApp calls have changed all that. Bring on the nearest Wi-Fi spot.

Similarly, social media while a game-changer well before 2010 - heading into the 2020 the travel influencer as an evolution of the Travel Blogger continues to stoke wanderlust. As with major disruptive apps, the influencer game is reaching maturity - as trust, authenticity and real storytelling take centre stage.

As we head into the new decade the data race is well underway, with personalisation driving the intent to ensure better experiences.  

READ: SA makes the list as one Uber's most popular destinations for international rides in 2019

The rise of online travel planning and booking

Disruptive apps have followed hot on the heels of Online Travel Agents. But while the bulk of the travel planning still begins online - surprisingly industry analysis has shown that millennials (They're also maturing) are twice as likely as those of other generations to contact a travel consultant as the first step in their research process.

Research shows travellers are open to turning to travel consultants to help them plan, even more so as they look for value for money and more of those one-of-a-kind experiences to spend money on.

SEE: Travel agent vs DYI: 3 Scenarios to consider

Low-cost carrier competition and expanding Flight Routes

Having wider access to destinations not only means better choice, but it has intrinsically seen more competitive pricing for travellers - especially when it comes to air travel. 

While Comair and Mango have dominated the low-cost travel game in South Africa, other carriers such as Velvet Sky and 1Time bowed out over the last decade. But it has been the most recent addition of FlySafair that has helped stimulate competition and domestic travel value. No other birthday sale is anticipated either. 

READ: Cape Town has landed 3 new airlines, 4 new destinations and 7 route expansions in just 14 months

Internationally, South Africa has seen remarkable growth in flight connectivity - driven by and large by the Cape Town Air Access - most notably bringing back United Airlines to Africa with the launch of a new non-stop route between the US and Cape Town, from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, New York.  

Alitalia has also upped connectivity between SA and Europe, re-launching its Johannesburg to Rome route after initially cutting the long-haul service about 17 years ago.  Similarly Latam is giving its SA route a boost with the launch of the new Airbus 350 on the route between Johannesburg and Brazil. Direct route connectivity currently in the pipeline is Australia. 

WATCH | United's new direct route from New York to Cape Town takes off, but what's next for SA's Air Access team?

While some borders closed, others opened up

Terrorism and a number of terrorist incidents in major destinations have left a mark on travel globally over the past couple of years

READ: Trump heading to Cape Town? What he might say about our top attractions

Even more so the US election of Donald Trump -  along with his clamp down on certain countries and policy changes to US Visas. We were all shocked to the core by the young face of Syria's war, while Brexit, Zika and Ebola all took its turn to impacted travel negatively.

The world has been looking at border lines a lot differently in the last decade - including Saudi Arabia opening up its borders by offering a tourist visa.

READ: In case you're still confused, DHA minister confirmed unabridged birth certificates are officially not a requirement   

In South Africa we’ve certainly stepped up our intent to secure our borders and modernise our travel processes -  but if we want to improve the economic impact of tourism, then our current e-visa pilots need to be expanded and implemented permanently.  

READ: Visa-free = Hassle-free: 2019's most significant visa changes for SA  


Local and global visitors continue to view South Africa as one of the top adventure travel destinations. As the economic crunch took its toll, so did the idea of staycationing or taking a Shot Left. Similarly, short trips more often have also become the norm.

The Mother City is voted the World's Best city year after year, and South Africa is home to Africa's top natural attraction Table Mountain - while our micro-travel itineraries ensure some excellent road-tripping memories can be made. 

All in all, when living in a country as exceptional as Mzansi, this is a concept that is sure to continue for a long time to come.

SEE: Affordable and fun things to do during your SA Staycation

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