Travel’s latest trends have been announced at World Travel Market London, with South African businesses being mentioned at the trade show for their role in innovation within the sector.

According to the Euromonitor Megatrends Report 2019, global inbound international arrivals are expected to grow by 5% to 1.4 billion trips in 2018. This amounts to total travel sales that are expected to reach almost US$2.5 trillion for the year – a figure that both inspires and tantalizes, and speaks to the importance of attracting visitors according to those trends.

Seamless experiences

The report details travel trends ahead of 2019, pinpointing these regionally across the globe. One trend of relevance for the South African market is that of travellers seeking seamless experiences from start to finish. Innovators in this space include proximity payment specialists Snapchat, whose product has provided access to the market for SMEs locally since they can now provide a payment option that suits the digital-first market that speaks to the needs of their customers. It’s ideal for a developing marketplace like South Africa’s; it enables visitors to avoid having to carry cash and helps them to transact in a card-free environment.

Apart from product innovations such as these, when it comes to seamless experiences, there’s more to focus on: first of all, the visa and unabridged birth certificate situation needs to be resolved to remove barriers to access. This is an impediment that shouldn’t exist in a market that’s seeking to capitalise on growth opportunities – after all, the opportunities to encourage the global tourist to visit Cape town are clear – the city is a breathtaking environment that’s perfectly suited to be one of the world’s leading destinations. It’s already gained a powerful reputation as such, for good reason, but we refuse to be satisfied with modest tourism figures; we want what is rightfully ours, teeming visitors enjoying a world-class visitor experience.

There have been hitches in providing this, but the city has proven itself capable of overcoming challenges. Specifically, the drought that troubled locals and the tourism industry has been managed to the point that our dams are twice as full as they were last year, and that’s just one indication that visitors needn’t stay away – tourism businesses and locals have rolled out initiatives that are water-friendly, reducing their impact on water usage.

Investor confidence

Another trend that’s relevant to South Africa is that of a middle class emerging within a developing nation that has a hunger for leisure and business travel. This market is on the rise. Rather than local travel companies only catering for wealthy, international visitors seeking high-end lodging, we’re seeing the demand for low-cost carrier flights and more segmented accommodation growing to cater for this market. 

Fortunately, we’re well-placed to offer both luxury, bespoke travel experiences as well as cost-friendly trips for the middle-class traveller. It helps that global reward programmes such as Marriott Rewards benefit both of these travel segments, enabling them to travel internationally and enjoy value-adds.

This trend has led to the building of more hotel properties across the continent, a further indication that investors remain confident that tourism will continue to form a central part of our economy and that of other nations across Africa.

The jewel of Africa – an immersive tourism experience

As the Gateway to Africa (and to South Africa), Cape Town is a microcosm of the magic that exists on the continent, a place where cultures meet, and experiences enchant. It taps into another international trend – that of visitors seeking immersive experiences as they travel like locals. In other parts of the world, it’s harder to track down those off-the-beaten-track adventures; here, you don’t have to look hard to find them at all. You can taste cuisine you’ll find nowhere else, hear music that’s unique, see natural spaces that are unparalleled and enjoy a rich cultural and traditional heritage in a cosmopolitan, urbane environment.

Cape Town has become a model city in terms of developing and maintaining a sustainable tourism strategy that’s designed to last. It’s no small thing that the city’s representatives from the tourism industry and other private and public entities can attend a global trade event like WTM London and enjoy rubbing shoulders with other global travel icon representatives: we’re as relevant and coveted on the global travel scene as cities such as New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Dubai. In terms of existing trends, we’re not just meeting them, we are setting them.