Whether you’re exploring near or far, why you travel is set to become as important as where you travel this year. By Trevor Crighton
Travel should be about choices – and the rise of technology and customisability is as big a leap in the travel space these days as the advent of cost-effective air travel was a couple of decades ago. It is more simple than ever before to access information, book a ticket, find your way around or, generally, just go!The ease of negotiating even the most far-flung places has given travellers unprecedented access to dream trips – ironic, in a digital world where so much of the planet can be experienced from your smartphone.
Marko Mandusic, account manager at Flume, a company that handles digital marketing for travel brands and thus has interesting insights into what South Africans are searching for online from a travel perspective, says a number of trends have emerged over the past year. ‘We’ve seen a slight increase in skiing and snowboarding interest online, which shows that South Africans are starting to entertain the idea of spending the December holidays in the snow,’ he says. ‘There is still massive interest in beach holidays, but snow and ski are slowly gaining interest.’
Mandusic says interest in China has also increased, most likely due to the increasing number of large touring groups of Chinese travellers in South Africa. ‘This interest hasn’t really been converted into sales, though, as audiences are still unsure and tentative about China. Word of mouth is still one of the primary platforms that helps audiences decide where they want to go on their next holiday. Luckily, word of mouth is amplified by social platforms and sharing of experiences,’ he says.
Kelly Jackson, general manager of Kelly Jackson, general manager of Contiki in South Africa, says trips centred around food look set to be a major trend for 2017. ‘Contiki has done research regarding food and how important it is to travellers – who hasn’t taken a picture of food and posted it on social media? – and it’s a big reason why certain people pick the destinations they do,’ she says. ‘Because of the results, we’ve introduced the “Munch” trip, which we feel is the ultimate itinerary for foodies to nibble their way around continental Europe, visiting Florence, Barcelona and the South of France.’ The tours take in cooking classes, Tuscan dinners, market tours and winemaking lessons, while a local foodie influencer duo offers the insider knowledge that makes for a truly Instagram-worthy offering. Speaking of Instagram, Contiki also offers ‘Snap’ trips, which focus on photo-worthy spots around Europe, as well as ‘Boutique’ trips for travellers who want to explore in luxury.
Contiki’s 2017 ‘No Regrets List’ – a survey of more than 5 000 travellers aged 18–35 – is topped by the opportunity to bathe in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon and features other entries like seeing the great pyramids at Giza, chilling out on the beach at Byron Bay in Australia, or riding a bike along the canals of Amsterdam.
So, having made the decision to travel, how do you narrow down a planet full of opportunities? Instead of deciding where to go, think about why you’d like to travel. Voluntourism isn’t necessarily a new trend, but its one that’s on the rise again. Whether it’s the need to fulfil a deep-seated desire to do good or even just to show that you’re making a difference in the world via your Instagram account, the quest for authentic experiences is well served by taking time out to do something for someone else, while seeing a bit of the world.
If you’re genuinely interested in making a difference, make sure you have a sound intention to apply your skills to help solve a problem in a place where problems need solving. If you have medical training, change lives by helping people who have suffered trauma or who have treatable problems. If you’re an engineer, visit somewhere that you can help develop infrastructure and kick-start growth in a village, region or country. Don’t, however, make the mistake of thinking your privilege entitles you to swooping in and photographing yourself holding hungry babies or stirring a pot of soup before heading off to the beach. You don’t have to devote your life to a cause – but make sure you’re actually helping people rather than taking advantage of them. For a list of opportunities and things to consider before planning a voluntourism trip, visit www.voluntourism.org or www.projects-abroad.org.
Millions of travellers have probably participated in one of 2017’s top travel trends without even knowing it. ‘Bleisure’ travel involves tacking on a bit of sightseeing around a business trip – effectively mixing what you have to do with what you want to do. Bleisure travel is especially popular among younger travellers who are taking advantage of a major perk of globalisation – more work travel. If your company is open to it and you have the leave to work with, why not spend some extra time exploring a part of the world – or even your own country – that you haven’t seen yet? Your plane ticket is paid for and the bulk of your living expenses are covered, so taking some time out to broaden your horizons is a no-brainer. There are few things more depressing in the travel space than flying halfway round the world and only seeing the airport, your hotel, the conference venue, and then the airport again.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reported that more than $1.25 trillion was spent on business travel around the world in 2015. The US, China and Western Europe drew more than two-thirds of that spend alone – and are all places that beg exploration beyond the conference rooms that drew all those travellers there in the first place. The GBTA says the next countries primed for explosive business-travel growth are India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland and Turkey. If none of those feature on your bucket list, maybe you’re better off staying home!
Local travel and ‘staycations’ are on the up for 2017 on the back of a weaker rand. Tourism may, in fact, be one of South Africa’s major growth areas for the year, as the country becomes a more attractive destination for international travellers with increasingly valuable foreign currency. The World Travel & Tourism Council estimated that the South African tourism sector would contribute approximately R380 billion to the economy in 2016 – a vital shot in the arm for an economy with sub-single-digit growth prospects.
For locals, even in 2017, this means a focus on cost-effective holidays, like staying closer to home – not that that’s a bad thing … Even though South Africa is being rated as a top destination by many international awards, locals have tended to travel abroad rather than explore their own beautiful country. ‘We need to encourage South Africans to ask what they can get from an overseas holiday that they can’t find somewhere in South Africa,’ says Josiah Montsho, general manager at Cape Town’s Pepperclub Hotel & Spa. Speak to any foreign guest who has lost days dragging their dropped jaws through the Cape Winelands or felt the heartbeat of Joburg, and they will tell you they’d move to South Africa in an instant!
Edgars Travel Club has loads of local opportunities to explore – so take a sho’t left and explore a bit of your own country before parting with exponential amounts of your hard-earned rands to decide that partial glimpse you got of the Mona Lisa actually wasn’t worth getting trampled by thousands of other people trying to do the same thing before rushing off to tick the next box.
The advent of broadband internet, smartphones and a world of custom apps has delivered a generation of travellers who are embracing technology like never before. Younger travellers are also more open to trusting their smartphones to help them sniff out the best action – be it crowdsourcing advice on how to get a table at that trendy restaurant, meeting new people through apps, or sourcing and sharing their own exciting finds via envy-inducing posts on social media.
Whereas experiences used to come neatly packaged from tour operators and choices were limited, the rise of technology has now opened up a world of travel customisation. Apps like SkyScanner can help you find the cheapest possible flight options; Expedia can help you play travel roulette; Airbnb can deliver about as authentic a daily experience anywhere in the world that you could hope for; and Uber can get you around safely and quickly in nearly 600 cities worldwide. Google Maps allows you to cache maps and can show you where you are, even if you’re not connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network; Google Translate helps you ask questions in a language you don’t speak; and Waverley Labs’ ‘The Pilot’ is a real-life Babel Fish, straight out of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that offers real-time translation of spoken language into another language of your choice – directly into your ear.
It’s never been easier to travel. Like, click, book, go!
This is article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Club Magazine