After more than two years of pandemic-induced travel bans and chaos, and emerging trends are revealing fascinating insights into the post-Covid traveller. This is a very different breed of traveller with different motivations and values. Tapping into what makes them tick is key to maximising on the current leisure travel boom.
Desiring the freedom of travel more than ever before, ‘revenge travel’ is huge – people taking advantage of open skies and open countries after many requirements and restrictions have been dropped.
Travellers are, however, facing rising costs due to the war in Europe and the resultant impact on fuel. Many are downscaling where they can, from expensive hotels to more affordable ones, limiting excursions and working within tighter budgets, but they are not curtailing their holidays. Meanwhile this has made local travel highly attractive.
The luxury segment
In the luxury travel and premium air travel segment a different trend can be observed. According to the latest Flywire survey, 72% of luxury travellers will be spending more on holidays in 2022 than they spent pre-pandemic.
“We must remember not every sector suffered during Covid,” explains Thompsons Holidays CEO Joanne Adolphe. “The banks, the IT sector made a lot of money and people working in those sectors now have disposable income. Many other people also managed to save money during Covid and are eager to spend it. The pent-up demand is fuelling a desire for people to spoil themselves and start ticking off their bucket lists.”
This is especially true for people in countries that imposed harsh lockdowns, like Australia. Then there’s the SKI generation trend – the ‘Spend Kids’ Inheritance’ generation. These older individuals are travelling up a storm and working through their bucket lists, often with extended families in tow.
Experiential and sustainability stays
Many travellers are specifically looking for experiences because “it’s no longer just a flop and stay holiday,” Adolphe points out. “People want to be immersed in culture or have a foodie experience. They also want to have opportunities to go out and explore. All these things have to be taken into consideration when you’re planning a client’s leisure holiday.”
Post-Covid, eco-friendly tourism is also coming through strongly. People want to know how green
a property is, what their carbon footprint will be, and whether they’re going to be benefiting the local communities.
“We’ve noticed that the age group of about 26 to 40 is very eco-conscious,” says Adolphe. “We often get the question: is it a plastic-free property? Especially when people are going to the islands.
“They’re very conscious of the environment and the impact that their choices will have. I think it’s a wonderful trend. Climate change has taken a backseat because of Covid and the war in Europe but it’s something we really have to address.”
Says Otto de Vries, CEO ASATA: “When it comes to confirming travel, sustainability efforts and initiatives are often a huge deciding factor for many customers.
“Instead of simply going on holiday, today’s leisure travellers want to learn and grow whilst giving back to the people and places they encounter during their travels. It is important for agents to develop an understanding for and deliver on the sustainability drivers of leisure travel.”
De Vries says there has definitely been a jump towards experiential travel, which often lends itself to experiences that aid personal growth and mental wellbeing.
“It is important for agents to develop an understanding for and deliver on the sustainability drivers of leisure travel.”
‘New look’ domestic travel
Local is also lekker when it comes to travel. With South Africa and the continent having so much to offer in terms of destinations, experiences and from a cost perspective, South Africans are realising they don’t have to travel abroad to have enriching holidays. Exploring their backyards is becoming more attractive.
“It’s sexy to sell Africa to South Africans!” Adolphe says. “There are those South Africans who always went to Plett, always went to the South Coast, or to Mauritius. But now they’re becoming more adventurous here in this country and more adventurous where they’re travelling the world.”
This presents an opportunity for the travel industry to grow and for domestic travel to grow by putting forward suggested destinations to clients, not merely sending them the information they requested. How long this adventurous attitude will last is difficult to determine, making it something on which to capitalise now.
Ending on a high note
The only way is clearly up for the leisure travel industry, with a big reconnect taking place, pent-up demand being unleashed and the desire of travellers to spoil themselves, coupled with the fact that many of them have more money to do so.
Leisure travel the world over is reaching pre-Covid levels and despite rising costs, there haven’t been mass cancellations. This is encouraging and presents travel agents the opportunity to recommend more affordable options should their clients be sitting on the fence.
“If we stay in this industry the next couple years, I truly believe we’re all going to reap the rewards of what we lost to Covid,” concludes Matthew Fubbs, The Holiday Factory Sales Director