Value and exceptional service, key to growing US and UK travel markets

21st Mar 2012
Value and exceptional service, key to growing US and UK travel markets

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 draw increased arrivals to CapeTown.

A workshop hosted by Cape Town Tourism at the Strand Tower Hotel in the city center saw presentations by their UK and USA market representatives on how best to engage with these key tourism markets. Both partners encouraged offering added value, and special packages as the UK and USA markets have considerably changed the way they travel.

South African Tourism also presented their domestic marketing campaign at the event and echoed the sentiment that packaging was vital for the domestic market with a willingness to explore their own country.

Cape Town Tourism’s market representatives, Mary Tebje of Tourism Leisure in the UK and Adel Grobler of Imagine Communications in the USA, were joined by South Africa’s Mashoto Zimba of SA Tourism to talk about their domestic marketing strategy.

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 percent of visitors come for leisure travel and just under 25 percent to visit friends and relatives.

• As the recession continues, and there is less money to spend on non-essentials, 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 market segments worst hit by the recession are the family sector and the middle-class market.

• Air Passenger Duty charges are putting a damper on inbound arrivals to South Africa. The 8 percent increase in APD from April 1 will add up to 300 GBP onto the price of a flight to South Africa.

• UK visitors are seeking destinations with a strong and authentic sense of location - from food, setting, to excursions, and entertainment.

Mary Tebje, owner of Tourism Leisure in the UK, said: “Despite the economic doom and gloom, Cape Town remains a firm favorite for UK holidaymakers. Cape Town is a long-haul destination and requires serious investment in time and money, but it has got 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 like 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 that:

• Only 33 percent of Americans have passports. Despite this, the annual international tourism expenditure by US citizens amounts to more than US$75 billion, making it the world’s second-most valuable source market behind Germany.

• Americans have 14 days of leave per year versus the 24 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 travelers are first-time visitors to Cape Town and stay for an average of 7 days.

• The USA travel market is not as consolidated as European and UK markets. The market is very 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. USA travelers use the Internet to research, book their journeys, and give feedback to their circles of friends after their holidays. Online bookability of accommodation and tourism experiences are key for American travelers.

• Environmental tourism, solo travel, health and wellness travel, and multi-generational travel are on the increase.

Grobler commented further: “As unique travel experiences become an increasingly relevant status symbol in the United States, a trip to South Africa provides the American traveler with significant bragging rights. For US travelers 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 travelers a sense of comfort and relaxation. Though they are far from home, the welcoming embrace of Cape Town’s charming residents makes the traveler 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.”

On the home front, South African Tourism’s Domestic Marketing Strategy has focused on South African travelers in groups from budget explorers to high-end travelers and working-class families. The total South African population is estimated to be around 50 million, 30 million of which are over the age of eighteen, and only 8.2 million being adults earning 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 is aimed at encouraging a new generation of young and trendy 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. Insights from our existing markets show that price, marketing, and the increasingly influential social media platforms are key to unlocking this region. We have to cut through the noise with excellent value and transparent communication. Travelers need to be able to imagine Cape Town at the touch of a button and then 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.”


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