Youth travel may be the future for SA’s tourism sector
Global tourism leaders see the 18-35 market as a key driver of the post-virus industry. SA may be well-placed to take advantage.
Is there a future for the global travel industry in a post-coronavirus world? And, if so, where does it lie?
The Swiss-based World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC) has been pondering as to what a ‘new normal’ for the sector will look like and believes that younger travellers in the 18-35 age group, who appear to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, may be among the first to begin travelling once again.
This grouping fits into the population segment defined by marketers as Millennials – those born roughly between the early-‘80s and the very end of the ‘90s, depending on whose parameters you use.
Younger travellers are a darling of the industry
Millennials have long been a darling of the travel industry and studies published in 2019 showed that Millennials spent US$200-billion on travel in 2018.
Furthermore, their propensity to travel is greater than other generations. On average, 82% of millennials travelled annually prior to coronavirus, compared with 75% of all other generations. They also took 5.6 trips per year, compared with a much lower 4.4 (Gen-Z), 4.0 (Gen X) and 3.5 (Baby Boomers).
SA tourism stats also show same trends
In South Africa, it’s much the same picture. SA Tourism’s 2018 Annual Report indicated that youth tourists (which it classified at those aged 34 years or younger) accounted for 57% of international tourists (10.5-million people) who visited South Africa, and 49% of total domestic trips (17,7 million). Excluding African-based tourists, youth travel accounted for 46% of total overseas visitors to SA.
“The traditional view of youth travel is that of the budget or backpacker segment. The truth is that the youth market is far more nuanced,” said Jabulani Debedu, senior consultant with advisory firm BDO South Africa in a report published in late 2019.
“While it does tend to focus on affordable tourism products, it is in fact part of the travel mainstream and should not be consigned to the periphery.”
SA cannot afford to focus heavily on legacy travel market
Debedu pointed out that, in many ways, South Africa still offers a legacy travel product aimed at an overseas market that is fast disappearing.
“The pool of retired folk from Europe who want to visit Cape Town and the Kruger in a tour bus is no longer enough to build our destination. Given the aspirational nature of young people in general, it is important for tourism operators to provide a youthful offering with premium features or standards to appeal to this market,” he said.
When our travel industry does begin stirring again, it seems the 18-35 market will need to be targeted with renewed vigour as part of a comeback strategy.