Africa is a vibrant continent, full of diverse people and cultures. No matter where you are, events can cause huge spikes in hotel bookings. To make the most of the next AfroFest or AfroPunk, travel advertisers must cultivate their attention to detail and learn to plan for predictable trends. Here are four ways how travel marketers can capitalise on events.
Cultural events influence travel trends around the world, regardless of whether they’re planned or spontaneous, positive or negative. Huge crowds of travellers pass in and out of host cities, giving hoteliers good reason to capitalize on their habits and activities.
But an event’s popularity is not the only factor that impacts the resulting tourist habits in those cities –– any number of unpredictable details leading up to those events can influence travel trends. And if travellers are planning ahead, travel marketers should be too.
Gallivant Africa is undertaking a study to see how some of the past year’s events on the continent impacted tourism trends around the world.
The Gallivant Africa 2019 Travel Index will look at booking windows, attendance rates and generational trends of events, ranging from the World Travel Market to the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, to determine how travel marketers can effectively build events into their overall business strategies. Here, we look at a few takeaways from the study.
Event ticketing forces sports fans to plan ahead
Cities clamor to host sporting sensations, such as the Cricket, Rugby and Soccer tournaments, hoping that highly-televised international attention will boost tourism and improve their public reputations on a global scale. And millions of sports fans often snatch up limited ticket releases and secure their accommodations during the same booking windows.
Most sporting events result in booking windows an average of 43 days ahead of the events themselves. But exceptions do occur when tickets are released outside of that window. For example, ticket lotteries for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow were released 90, 60, and 30 days before the World Cup actually took place. Corresponding booking spikes took place at each of those markers, suggesting that as fans scored event tickets, they turned their attention immediately to their accommodation needs. Savvy travel marketers also adjusted their campaign budgets to capitalize on this trend by initially dialing up ad spend 90 days prior to the events and, in the case of the World Cup Tournament, increased their ad spend by nearly 350 percent in the 30 days leading up to the first game.
Political rallies leave little time to plan
Whereas sporting fans tend to book their accommodations in advance, travellers attending large-scale cultural events like political rallies are often considerably more impulsive. Rallies like the #FeesMustFall march and the march against Gender Based Violence were attended by thousands, but no advance ticket sales were required for people to participate.
Booking windows for political rallies average 35 days, largely due to the grassroots nature of such events. Social activism arises in response to the local political climate, and ralliers who believe in the cause of a march show up in droves with hardly any advance notice.
Besides investing in campaigns with shorter booking windows, travel marketers should also consider optimizing their campaigns for mobile with ad spend going to in-app and social. Due to the shorter booking windows, many travellers are making their last-minute hotel reservations via their smartphones.
Music festival-goers save hotel bookings for last
Ticket sales for music festivals around the world go on sale months ahead of time, and in some cases, are even released an entire year in advance. However, although festival travellers book their tickets well in advance, they don’t seem to book their lodging until much later. Most festival host cities don’t experience a spike in booking windows until four to six weeks before the actual event.
This timing disparity between buying tickets and booking hotels may be due to the fact that many music festivals are hosted in already popular tourist destinations, like the Cape Town Jazz festival in Cape Town, South Africa and Ultra in Johannesburg, South Africa. Another factor in later stage booking windows may be the availability of alternative accommodation options with competitive rates, like Airbnb and Couch Surfing.
Again, optimizing campaigns for mobile devices –– especially with spend on social media channels –– becomes increasingly important for increasing booking volume among music festival-goers.
What it takes to weatherproof your travel strategy
Unfortunately, destinations around the world that have been devastated by natural disasters and inclement weather events, like cyclones and droughts, have seen real losses in tourism bookings over time. Cyclone Idai destroyed Mozambique ccausing immense property damage and loss from which the region is still recovering. Cape Town suffered a severe lack of water, where hotel swimming pools were drained and taking a bath was discouraged.
But surprisingly, dramatic weather phenomena can also spark modest increases in bookings in the periods immediately following those events. These last-minute booking spikes are often influenced by evacuation orders that force residents from their homes and by the influx of volunteer workers and first responders who flock to affected cities to help with disaster recovery.
Actionable Takeaways for Travel Marketers
Events ranging from the musical to the athletic and the political to the meteorological can all trigger spikes in the popularity of the cities where they take place. To stay aligned with the needs of travellers and spend on advertising wisely, travel marketers should:
- Plan on increased volume from cultural events in popular tourism destinations
- Budget for visibility during the primary ticketing periods for major sporting events
- Focus on last-minute booking services for music festivals and political rallies
- Adjust ad spend if property is damaged by an unexpected natural disaster
- Make sure campaigns are optimized for mobile, as many last minute bookings are made via smartphone
Of course, spikes in bookings and popularity often come with corresponding lulls. As long as travel marketers plan with major events in mind and stay nimble in response to the unexpected, global events can actually contribute to overall business strategy instead of knocking those plans off track.