Leveraging technology in order to reach new travel customers is key. Picture: Pexels.
Leveraging technology in order to reach new travel customers is key. Picture: Pexels.

Why 2021 will usher a new way of travel and how SMMEs need to adapt

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Jan 28, 2021

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2021 has got off to a bumpy start.

January has already seen more lockdowns, border closures and travel restrictions worldwide.

However, while 2020 saw the overnight shutdown of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, Jurni CEO, Dr Nomvuselelo Songelwa believes that 2021 will usher in a new way of travelling, opportunities amid the uncertainty, and the space to develop new tourism products and services.

“Socially-distanced travel, safe travel and more conscious and sustainable travel are here to stay,” says Songelwa.

“And while change and uncertainty are terrifying, especially for those who saw their incomes disappear in 2020, it’s important for SMMEs to identify the opportunities and grab hold of them where they can.”

For Songelwa, this means taking the opportunity to reflect and build a better offering.

"Although South Africa’s tourism industry is heavily reliant on international travel, the reality is that with travel restrictions still in place around the world, domestic tourism will make up the bulk of travel for the foreseeable future.

“South Africans will hopefully begin exploring their country in new ways, which gives SMMEs the chance to reflect on their business, improve their offering and present it to a South African audience for polishing," she says.

Songelwa emphasises the importance of health and safety in the sector.

The Department of Tourism released its norms and standards for the safe operations of the tourism sector in the context of Covid-19.

According to Songelwa, SMMEs need to take the time to familiarise themselves with the norms and standards and ensure they are able to meet the requirements as laid out in the gazette.

"In a post-Covid world, travellers will be looking to travel destinations, operators and establishments that make it easy to maintain social distancing.

"Niched travel design is an emerging trend as customers avoid traditionally crowded spots and large group tours.

“Think off-the-beaten-track destinations, small group tours, solo travel, private transport, and highly-niched escapes like birding tours, glamping, slack-packing hikes, photography holidays and biking adventures – where travellers are less likely to come into contact with others.

"In niche travel, price becomes less of a driver too as clients are willing to pay for the expertise, guaranteed health and safety and socially-distanced ‘bubble’ offered by niche operators," she says.

Leveraging technology in order to reach new customers is key.

“Today’s travellers are 100% online. SMMEs need to look closely at their online marketing initiatives and booking processes.

“From enquiry, to booking and payment it should be as seamless as possible. Social media platforms, and in particular pages and communities, are playing an increasingly important role as information sources for travellers.

“People share information, first-hand experiences, reviews and photographs across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and more," she adds.

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