Lessons from ITB as world tourism bounces back
CapeTown Tourism just returned from Berlin where they represented the destination at ITB (March 7-11, 2012), the biggest travel trade show and travel insights convention in the world. This year saw 10,644 exhibitors from 187 countries exhibiting their destinations and trade offers. This was the 46th annual ITB Berlin and it attracted more than 110,000 visitors over the five days of the event.
ITB Berlin Convention has earned itself a reputation as a key compass of the global tourism industry. Every year, the convention combines pioneering topics and surveys with internationally-renowned speakers. The following trends and topics that are valid for Cape Town were being highlighted at the ITB Convention this year:
• Internationally, the tourism industry is more political than ever before. National governments across the world are realizing the severe impact of political instability on the tourism industry. The European debt crises, upheaval in the Arab countries, climate change and sustainability, as well as EU emissions trading were high on the agenda at ITB.
• World travel is bouncing back from the recession and looking to be in better shape but, travelers are changing. The global travel industry marked record figures during 2011, with international tourist arrivals growing by over 4 percent to 980 million. This amounts to 5.9 billion in outbound overnight stays during 2011. However, international travelers continued to take shorter average trips this year. Americans take the longest trips, just ahead of Europeans, while Asians take the shortest trips. The average long-haul trip per traveler is just under nine days.
• The travel industry is setting its sights on moderate growth again in 2012 with an increase of 3 percent expected. By the end of 2012, one seventh of the world’s population will have crossed international borders as tourists in a single year. Mr. Taleb Rifai, UN World Travel Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, remarked that this “extraordinary number” will contribute to more jobs, higher income possibilities, and countless opportunities for development, so critical at this time of economic uncertainty. The UNWTO stressed the importance of responsibility and sustainability. “With growth comes responsibility,” said Mr. Rifai, “Tourism, if properly planned and managed, can be one of the most promising sectors for achieving a more economically, environmentally, and socially-sustainable future.”
• Seventy-two percent of EU citizens traveled in 2011, and more than 80 percent said that they would do so in 2012, choosing to go either on short trips or longer holidays. These are the results of the new Eurobarometer survey on the attitudes of Europeans towards tourism, which also sheds light on the preferences and travel patterns of EU citizens. The Eurobarometer revealed also that in 2011, more citizens chose to stay in Europe for their holidays; many more have said they will do so in 2012. This will impact long-haul arrivals in South Africa. Europeans have, however, indicated that they are willing to change destinations if offered tailored and authentic experiences. European travelers seek rest and recreation: 48 percent of those who went on holidays in 2011 had this objective in mind. Thirty-six percent chose destinations for “sun and beach” breaks, and 28 percent indicated that they will travel to visit family and friends. Seventeen percent of Europeans want to travel to cities and urban areas.
• The Eurozone is still facing significant uncertainty, and outbound travel from Europe will not grow significantly. Germany is the most economically-optimistic country in the Eurozone, and German travelers are positive in their travel prospects. The South African Tourism arrival statistics showed an increase of 9.9 percent of German tourists (211,000 arrivals) to South Africa during 2011. The UK outbound travel will demonstrate almost no growth, and Germany might overtake the UK as Cape Town’s most significant key source market during 2012. The USA outbound market is also showing some optimism, and more Americans are expected to take long-haul journeys this year.
• The average spending per trip is expected to increase during 2012. Global outbound travel spending is rising faster than the number of trips, indicating higher spending per trip. In total, outbound travel spending grew 8 percent to €828 billion in 2011, according to the World Travel Monitor. Spending per night rose 4 percent, while spending per trip increased 2 percent. Asians spent the most per trip, ahead of Americans and then followed by the Europeans.
• China is poised to become a major force in world tourism as more Chinese travel abroad. More than 66 million Chinese traveled abroad during 2011, up 15 percent on 2010. Although the vast majority still visit neighboring Hong Kong or Macau, the number of Chinese consumers traveling to destinations “beyond” is growing fast. In 2011, Chinese travelers took more than 20 million outbound trips. Today’s (and, above all, tomorrow’s) Chinese tourists are young, affluent, well-dressed and hi-tech, and they want individual experiences combined with Chinese-ready services. Perhaps the most important characteristic of the new Chinese tourists, however, is that they are “digital natives” who have grown up using computers, the Internet and now mobile technology and social media. Subsequently, they are using these digital channels to plan, book, and share their travels. Tourism products in South Africa need to be geared towards Chinese travelers if we want to grow tourism from this market. Cape Town Tourism is working with South African Tourism to gain market insights and trade contacts in the Chinese market and will be presenting a workshop on attracting Chinese tourists later this year.
• Outbound travel from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is expected to grow, with up to 7 percent during 2012. South Africa receives close to 100,000 Scandinavian visitors per annum – 80 percent of which visit Cape Town.
• The Internet has clearly established itself as the world’s favorite place to book travel. This year’s World Travel Monitor supported these findings. Online bookings now account for nearly half of bookings, while (besides direct bookings with hotels or airlines) travel agents accounted for not even one-third of bookings. Leisure travel (holidays) continues to be the dominant reason (more than 70 percent) for outbound travel around the world, compared to business travel and visiting friends and relatives.
• Travel bloggers are gaining recognition as one of the most credible sources of online travel information. Word-of-mouth or advice from online friends often ranks as the most influential source of pre-purchase travel information, and the immediacy of interaction with travel bloggers through social media is being recognized as a powerful force. In order for destinations and tourism products to stay ahead of the game, it is important to build successful and profitable relationships with the new generation of pro bloggers and travel influencers. Cape Town Tourism will host four of the most influential international travel bloggers during July and August.
• The international tourism industry is moving towards a more sustainable business model but still faces many challenges and obstacles to reach this goal. External factors are placing growing pressure on the sector to increase sustainability, but according to 19th World Travel Monitor Forum, customer demand for sustainable holidays is still relatively weak. Sustainable holidays are “nice to have” but not a “must” for most consumers around the world, and a majority of people remain unwilling to pay extra for them. About 1 in 5 tourists is actively interested in booking a “sustainable” trip. According to the 19th World Travel Monitor Forum, consumers only rank sustainability as the 7th most important factor out of 8 when booking a holiday. (The top 5 factors were climate, price, destination accessibility, culture, and landscape.)
Cape Town Tourism’s attendance of ITB 2012 peaked with the launch of the Cape Town Toolkit, an online information resource that was welcomed by European trade and media. Fruitful discussions were also had with travel bloggers, international trade, and media. Cape Town Tourism has started formulating Joint Marketing Agreements with international airline and trade partners in a structured approach to increase tourism arrivals to Cape Town.
Experts at ITB agreed: tourism destinations and products need to modernize their marketing strategies and follow customers online to engage and interact with travelers on social media.
Competition is fierce, and the tourism industry is vulnerable to external factors. Destinations and tourism products need to develop into brands in the new post-advertising era of word-of-mouth recommendations and buying decisions. A brand is much more than a logo or a slogan; it is your product and destination personality, a condensed expression of what you value and what service you offer to consumers. A brand should differentiate from you from competitors, and be attractive and credible to your target audience. Destinations and tourism products that depend on traditional marketing techniques will lose out to their innovative opponents.