Focusing on the domestic market to ensure the South African tourism sector’s recovery post-COVID-19 seems to be the most logical step but how viable is it? Tourism Update explores this in the first of a series of articles.
MD and Co-Founder of Natural Selection, James Ramsay, believes a full audit of strategies must be done during this time to ensure everyone is in the best place to recover post-COVID-19.
“It is most likely that domestic tourism will pick up first. The great unknown for all of us is for how long planes will be grounded and how long travel bans will be in place,” said Ramsay.
“I think there will be a lot of people heading for the wilderness after this experience to reset and this could be the kick start our industry needs.”
Ramsay said it was crucial for South Africans to experience the wildlife in their country or they wouldn’t develop an affinity and love for it, and wouldn’t be encouraged to protect their wilderness heritages.
“There has long been a belief that Southern African safaris are not available to the domestic market. They are just too expensive and inaccessible,” said Ramsay. “There is going to be a need for pro-active marketing as so many potential clients assume they cannot afford a safari.”
African Bush Camps Founder and professional safari guide, Beks Ndlovu, agreed with Ramsay, saying the company aimed to secure international revenue in the long-term, noting, however, that the current reality meant it could not rely on it for the medium- to short-term.
“With our camps situated in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana, taking a domestic direction first off should be the bigger focus for us as a tourism operator. It’s our first outreach and a natural step in progression for us as a local operator,” said Ndlovu.
“Local and regional tourism can enable us, for the interim, to ‘keep the industry alive’. We need to continue to instil confidence in travellers in the return of travel as a future window to look forward to.”
GM of Drifters Adventours, Christiaan Steyn, takes a different stance. “We have never worked in the domestic market before as our tours are not designed for the local sector,” he told Tourism Update.
MD of Akilanga DMC & Events, André Laget, agreed, highlighting to Tourism Update that the role of an inbound DMC or tour operator wouldn’t add much value to the domestic market in the way that it did for the international market.
“The domestic market travel from point A to point B, and back to point A. This can all be done online directly with the supplier such as a lodge,” said Laget.
“For the inbound sector to focus on the domestic market, it would mean creating a completely new business model, spending money on marketing this new model and competing with well-known companies that already focus on domestic market.”
Although the inbound tourism sector remains hopeful of its eventual recovery, Laget said it was important to remain realistic about the current situation. “We won’t be starting off from where the tourism industry stopped. The industry will be starting from scratch due to the major impact of the pandemic globally.”