The spate of terrorist attacks that rocked the world in 2015 may mean that north Africa and Paris are off the travel menu for a while. But rather than resulting in a dip in worldwide travel, things appear to be just the opposite.
People have had to curtail their travel for a number of years due to world-wide financial strain and, whilst the rand is at a record low in South Africa – exacerbated by the recent juggle of finance ministers – in other parts of the world currencies are strengthening and people are looking to 2016 as a year of adventure and long distance travel.
These 2016 travel trends could sharply define South Africa’s tourism …
STAYCATIONS ARE OUT; THE LONG-HAUL FLIGHT IS BACK
Cheaper fuel costs will mean cheaper flights and increased competition amongst airline carriers. It also means that the long-haul flight is back on the menu. The drop in the oil price might be old news (2014) but we’re only feeling the effects now, because airlines set their fuel costs in advance.
Britain, in particular, is predicting a year of ‘big trips’ given the pound’s six-year high against the Canadian and Australian dollars, and the South Africa rand. It could mean that those who have put South Africa on their ‘far-flung’ list, will finally venture here.
CRAMMING THEM IN
The decrease in fuel costs, however, does not stop airlines from working to lower their costs by getting as many people onto their planes as possible. Emirates set a new world record last November when they reconfigured their Airbus A380 to accommodate 615 passenger seats (BA’s A380s carry 469 passengers in four classes to Johannesburg, by comparison).
Some airlines are installing what they call ‘slimline seats’, whilst others are retrofitting skinnier seats into their aircraft. The bottom line is: flights could get even more uncomfortable than they are already.
SHARING ECONOMY BIGGER THAN EVER
The sharing economy continues to boom with sites like Airbnb and Über dominating the market. And this despite the ongoing debate that the sharing economy is ‘dead in the water’.
The idea that owners can rent out something they’re not using, like a house or car, or offer peer-to-peer services, like dinner at yours, is only just beginning to impact on those at the edge of the African continent. However, it is not all peaches and cream, particularly for South Africans.
Airbnb’s announcement in November 2015 that it could no longer make local payouts in SA rand, coupled with the tighter legislation in major cities like New York, Berlin and San Francisco, which could see ramifications in other cities of the world, makes advertising your spare room more difficult.
More so if you end up paying tax on your income, as hosts have done in Philadelphia since July last year when zoning adjustments made residential letting legal in the city.
EXPERIENTIAL TRAVEL BITES
People are no longer content with with merely a sightseeing agenda. The quest for ‘immersive’ travel – to experience a city like a local – is now as important as ever.
This trend remains on many travellers’ agendas with local companies, like SideStory in London, Italian Stories in Italy and, closer to home, Street Scene in Durban catering to those after an authentic experience that is at once adventurous, personalised and gives travellers insight into local culture.
The standard packaged tour no longer meets the need for more enriched lives and personal fulfillment through experience and learning. People want to visit private homes, local artisans, social projects, schools, orphanages and villages with ‘non-guide guides’ (those not connected to a travel company and often not even in the travel industry).
GRANDPARENTS ARE TAGGING ALONG
Multi-generational travel is high on the list of travel trends, and has been since 2014.
Those offering travel ideas to support the trend are providing options like safaris, city tours, beach holidays and cruises as the ideal way for inter-generational families to get together and celebrate their connection. Not everyone travels in this way for the same reasons.
Some travel to explore family roots or distant family connections, others because it is a far nicer experience than Skype could ever offer.
And family travel is not always defined as two or three generations of a nuclear family. Other multi-generational groups include siblings, nephews or nieces and even friends. Venues that can facilitate big groups like this will do well in 2016.
LESS HUMAN INTERACTION
Travel relies less and less on human interaction this year. Travellers choose to talk via web chat, text messages, Facebook and Whatsapp rather than telephone or bookings at the front desk.
This trend arises out of the need by traveller’s for instant gratification: they want to be able to order, book or receive updates in a couple of finger swipes; a major shift for tourism which now has to offer more intuitive and user-friendly options.
FLEXIBLE CHECK-OUT TIMES
According to the New York Times hotel groups like Peninsula, Patina and Yotel (in America) are trying out flexible checkout policies allowing guests the option for a lie-in. It appears that stipulated check-in and check-out times are a thing of the past – Peninsula Hotels claims a 70 percent return rate as a result.
Whilst some hotels charge for the luxury, experts predict that this will be a free service to sort the wood from the chaff in future. Conde Nast Traveler quips that it is one reason renting an apartment on Airbnb is so popular – flexible check-in time.
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