The UK and USA, two of Cape Town’s top five tourism key source markets, have both been adversely affected by the global recession but, if targeted correctly, still hold significant potential to increase the number of foreign visitors to Cape Town.
A workshop hosted by Cape Town Tourism at the Strand Tower Hotel in the city centre, on March 15, saw representatives of the UK and USA markets offer their insights into how best to engage with these key tourism markets.
Mary Tebje of Tourism Leisure, in the UK, and Adel Grobler of Imagin Communications, in the USA emphasised offering added value and special packages to entice UK and USA travellers, as they have changed the way they travel.
South African Tourism, represented by Mashoto Zimba, also presented their domestic marketing campaign at the event, and echoed the sentiment that packaging was vital for locals who want to explore their own country.
Key Insights into the current UK travel climate included:
• The UK market is still Cape Town’s most significant tourism market with an average of 200,000 visitors to the Mother City per year;
• Britons spend an average of 13 nights in South Africa and are Cape Town’s biggest spending market;
• 70% of visitors come for leisure travel and just under 25% to visit friends and relatives;
• As the recession continues, Brits are taking fewer, shorter breaks on more affordable package offers, booking stays at the last minute. One in 10 UK holidaymakers is swapping long-haul for short-haul holidays to reduce the cost of flights;
• The segments worst hit by the recession are the family sector and the middle-class markets;
• Air Passenger Duty charges are putting a damper on inbound arrivals to South Africa. The 8% increase in APD from April 1, will add up to £300 onto the price of a flight to South Africa.
• UK visitors are seeking destinations with a strong and authentic sense of location - from food and setting to excursions and entertainment.
Tebje said: “Despite the economic doom and gloom, Cape Town remains a firm favourite for UK holidaymakers. Cape Town is a long haul destination and requires serious investment in time and money but it has the Brits hooked. First time visitors to the city tend to do iconic attractions and experiences, such as Table Mountain and Boulders Beach. Returning visitors, however, are looking for second tier tourism products and experiences, such as theatre, live music, local bars and markets. They feel more confident and enjoy taking part in the lesser known activities that locals love to do. Many Brits are on their fifth or sixth trip to Cape Town.”
Lending insight from the USA, Adel Grobler said:
• Only 33% of Americans have passports. Despite this the annual international tourism expenditure by US citizens amounts to more than $75 billion, making it the world’s second most valuable source market behind Germany;
• Americans have 14 days leave per year versus the twenty four days expected worldwide – leading to shorter long-haul trips. Quality experiences during their shorter holidays will ensure that they return to a destination;
• Most American inbound travellers are first time visitors to Cape Town and stay for an average of seven days;
• The USA travel market is not as consolidated as European and UK markets. The market is segmented and has highly developed niche tourism sectors like culinary tourism, health and wellness travel and extreme adventure tourism;
• Facebook continues to be the most influential social media tool in the USA. Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare are also widely used. US travellers use the internet to research, book their journeys and give feedback to their circles of friends after their holidays. Being able to book accommodation and tourism experiences online is key for US travellers;
• Environmental tourism, solo travel, health and wellness travel, and multi-generational travel are on the increase.
Grobler added: “As unique travel experiences become an increasingly relevant status symbol in the United States, a trip to South Africa provides the American traveller with significant bragging rights. For US travellers visiting the country, a trip to Cape Town is both a highlight and an integral part of the journey. The worldly nature of Cape Town appeals to the diverse American demographic by giving travellers a sense of comfort and relaxation. Though they are far from home, the welcoming embrace of Cape Town’s charming residents makes the traveller feel at home. As a truly cosmopolitan city, the mystique of South African travel and the excitement of Cape Town remains an irresistible draw to Americans with an adventurous spirit.”
South African Tourism’s Domestic Marketing Strategy has focused on South African travellers in groups from budget explorers to high-end travellers and working class families. Out of an estimated 50 million people in the country, only 8.2 million adults earn more than R3 000 per month (i.e. able to afford leisure travel). Drivers of domestic travel include rest and relaxation, the need to explore the country and special package offers. Barriers to domestic travel are fears over safety and security, as well as high pricing in some regions. SA Tourism’s domestic campaign aims to encourage a new generation of South Africans to explore their own country.
Skye Grove, Communications Manager at Cape Town Tourism, concluded: “There is much room for growth in all our markets – domestic and international. . Travellers need to be able to imagine Cape Town at the touch of a button and have a real, pressing reason to make that booking. The tourism experience of Cape Town is rich and multi-layered, and needs to be supported by exceptional service from all tourism players.”