Who is the South African domestic traveller?

Local is lekker, or so they say, and while selling domestic travel has not really been the preserve of South Africa’s travel agents in the past, this is all about to change as South African Tourism works with ASATA members to promote and sell holidays in South Africa.

Did you know that most adult South Africans have never taken a holiday in the country? That Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) is the main reason that South Africans travel domestically? And that unaffordability is the main reason that South Africans do not travel in their own country.

SA Tourism has crunched the numbers and seen that the number of domestic trips, total number of domestic travellers and domestic travel spend are declining, which means we are behind most destinations when it comes to what domestic travel vs international travel contributes to the economy.

Useful for you to know if you work in travel is that out of 21.7m South Africans over the age of 18 and earning a personal monthly income, some 3.6m adults would be targetable as holiday travellers.

So why do South Africans go on holiday?

South Africans go on holiday to relax mostly and their destination choices are influenced by friends’ recommendations and travel websites and affordability. According to research conducted by SA Tourism, travellers prefer to manage bookings themselves using online travel booking websites.

Holidays are a reward for the hard work they put in their demanding daily routines and a holiday allows them to reflect and refocus, which is important to South Africans.

South Africans believe that travelling domestically for holiday allows them to experience new and different things in the country.  They prefer outdoor, nature-based destinations with the beach being a firm favourite, but the mountains and bush are also appealing.

Because of the high level of VFR travel conducted by South Africans, holidays are also there to help travellers reconnect with their family. Good to note is that most travellers believe that VFR trips restrict their freedom and enjoyment, and burden them with work.

Familiarity brings a degree of boredom to South Africans; thus, they go for holidays to new places in search of different experiences and to break-away from the monotony. Travellers feel restricted at home and wish to get away with friends to be themselves and have fun.

For more insights on Domestic Tourism, stay posted to ASATA’s newsletter, website and social media…

Travel agents are back… here’s why

Customers are flocking back to the travel agent, according to a recent report in Travel Market Report. The article identified six reasons why travellers opt to book through their travel agent:

We offer guidance

Even the most seasoned travellers get a little nervous in these scary times where they are faced with Zika, terrorism and Ebola.  They appreciate our advice.

We offer savings

Agents have access to deals and promotions travellers do not, so we can still save our clients money.

OTAs are no longer flavour of the month

Travellers are frustrated with hidden fees and charges when they book through online travel agencies. There is just too much information out there to sort through.

We offer customer service

Travel agents help during the booking process and stay with you to make sure all goes right. And when there is a problem, we are there to intervene.

Deep knowledge of the destination, and personal understanding of your interests.
Agents often specialise in niche markets, so they can offer even more insight into a specific destination or segment of travel, like LGBT or destination weddings. And they spend a little time getting to know the customer, so they can make recommendations tailored to what you want to do. “It’s almost like your best friend is booking a trip for you,” says DiBernardo.

Travel agents’ customer base is skewing toward Millennials.
The percentage of travellers under the age of 35 who prefer to book their vacations through a travel agent increased 50% between 2014 and 2015, reports MMGY Global. They don’t have time to wade through all the options, and they understand there is only one chance to make a vacation perfect. Just as they hire an expert to do their taxes or maintain their garden, they want a knowledgeable professional to help them make this most important decision.

Zika: What you need to know

With the Rio Olympics just around the corner and reports of the Zika Virus spreading to Europe and more recently Indonesia, there is renewed panic and uncertainty regarding travel to affected destinations.

The most recent facts

WHO

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not issued general restriction on travel or trade within countries, areas and territories with Zika virus transmission it is advising pregnant women not to travel to areas with ongoing Zika virus outbreaks. This advice is based on the increased risk of microcephaly and other congenital malformations in babies born to pregnant women infected with Zika virus. The Zika virus is primarily transmitted to people through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. The virus can also be transmitted through sex.

Before travelling to Zika affected areas

Travellers to areas with Zika virus outbreaks should seek up-to-date advice on potential risks and appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to mosquito bites and sexual transmission of Zika.

Reliable sources include:

The World Health Organization

Centre for Disease Control

While in Zika-affected areas

Men and women should practice safer sex (including the consistent use of condoms) or abstinence to prevent Zika virus infection for at least eight weeks after returning from a trip. If men experience symptoms (rash, fever, arthralgia, myalgia or conjunctivitis) then they should adopt safer sexual practices or consider abstaining for at least six months. Sexual partners of pregnant women should practice safer sex or abstain for at least the duration of the pregnancy.

Prevent mosquito bites during the trip by following these measures:

  • Wear clothing – preferably light coloured – that covers as much of the body as possible;
  • Use insect repellent: repellents may be applied to exposed skin or to clothing, and should contain DEET, (diethyltoluamide) or IR 3535 or Icaridin. Repellents must be used in strict accordance with the label instructions;
  • Use physical barriers such as regular or mesh screens or insecticide treated netting materials on doors and windows, or closing doors and windows; and
  • Sleep under mosquito nets, especially during the day, when Aedes mosquitoes are most active.
  • Upon return home

Travel insurance:

Unfortunately pregnancy and fear of travelling are excluded from coverage on many travel insurance policies. This means travellers are not covered if they decide to cancel their trip for pregnancy-related reasons or fear of contracting the Zika virus.

The alternative is to check with your insurance provider if they offer a ’Cancellation for Any Reason’ benefit. In the event of the individual needing to cancel their international journey the benefit will allow the individual to be reimbursed up to the limit of liability as shown on the schedule of benefits and subject to the terms and conditions as set out by the insurance provider. Travellers can, however, in most cases opt to increase their travel insurance benefits at an additional price.

For complete piece of mind, insurance providers are urging travellers to review their insurance policy terms and conditions and to discuss any concerns directly with the relevant provider who will be able to advise on the best possible options available.

Brexit is a reality – what does it mean for us?

On Thursday, the UK voted to leave the European Union, making Brexit a reality.

Although it will take years for the full consequences to become clear, as the British and European leaders will begin negotiating the terms of Britain’s departure, here’s what you need to know about Brexit.

How did the issue around Brexit start?

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, as part of his campaign in the 2015 general election, promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s position in the European Union. The last time British voters had a say on their EU membership was in 1975, and now, in 2016, history was made again.

Who was against Brexit?

Well for starters, David Cameron. He has been urging people to #VoteRemain. Also Richard Branson and Stephen Hawking have been vocal that they want the UK to remain within the EU.

Who was for Brexit?

Leaders like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Bernie Ecclestone were all for #Brexit, saying Britain should cut cords with the sinking ship that is the EU. The EU charges billions of pounds each year for membership.

Who has voted?

People older than age 18 living in England, Irish and the Commonwealth are eligible to vote. So, even South Africans living in the UK could cast their vote.

What are the immediate consequences?

As the vote came in that the UK would leave the EU, it send the world’s currencies on a rollercoaster ride. The Pound plunged to a 30-year low against the Dollar, and also the Rand dropped by the most since 2008 against the Dollar.

How will it affect travel from SA?

Although a weaker Rand can obviously be a deterrent for international travel, Vanya Lessing, President of the Association of Southern African Travel Agent, explains countries will not want to make it more difficult or expensive for a traveller.

“In fact, there will be a lot of competition not to lose tourism, but rather to make gains to contribute to GDP,” she says, adding that there is also lot of scaremongering going on regarding the impact on various sectors of industry. “Travel is a very resilient industry. People will continue with their business and leisure plans. In today’s global world, travel has become a necessary function of business and life.”

UK-European LCC flights could be affected

Low-cost airlines in Europe and the UK have thrived due to treaties which ensure a single aviation area across Europe. EasyJet has claimed that the UK being part of the EU has allowed for their routes across Europe to almost double, and fares to fall by 40%. In a post-Brexit era, access to the market could change, and LCCs could choose to switch bases if they find they need to renegotiate bilateral agreements with Europe.

Long-haul carriers remain unaffected

According to Willie Walsh, boss of British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group (IAG), airlines that have a more global focus wouldn’t see a material impact due to Brexit.

Queues at Heathrow could lengthen

EU passengers travelling via London could potentially join Americans and other international travellers in one queue for non-U.K. citizens, leading to longer queues at Heathrow.

Travel taxes might dip

Currently, travellers to the UK pay the EU departure taxes as well as the UK departure taxes. Now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, only UK departure taxes would apply.

Looking forward to our future

Despite shifting consumer behaviour and demographics, rapidly realigning markets, changing destinations, sustainability concerns, rising wealth and significant shifts in technology will combine to redefine what it means to be in any consumer facing industry. As a result, the entire emerging travel ecosystem will need to be innovated, renewed and reimagined.

According to a new report by the Institute of Travel and Tourism, despite these challenges, the overall picture remains incredibly bright for those who adapt and drive digital transformation to help overcome the barriers to success.

Among the future trends that travel professionals need to adapt to cater to are:

  • Smartphones, wearables, embedded sensors, and other connected devices will all be used by consumers and suppliers alike. For many, this will require technological investment and the requisite changes in organisational culture and mindset that this implies —and a new culture and mind-set.
  • By 2017, 30 percent of online travel value is expected to be made on mobile devices, yet it is possible that just three years later, artificial interfaces could take over, effectively replacing smartphones as a user interface. AI will take over many common activities, such as searching the Internet, getting travel guidance, and as personal assistant. Under this scenario, we would effectively see a paradigm shift in terms of where consumers get their information from and in what form.
  • By 2020, advanced conversational smart agents and virtual personal assistants (VPAs) could handle 40 percent of mobile interactions autonomously, and the post-app era will be in full swing. In effect, today’s advanced analytics programs are tomorrow’s smartphone apps – or app replacing smart agents.
  • The trend towards smart agents is indicative of a broader shift towards more virtual forms of user interface. Wearables could migrate to less intrusive forms such as contact lenses within five years. Aural wearables could also revolutionise travel, with some tech experts suggesting that ‘within a decade or so, we’ll be able to communicate with one another via small earpieces with built-in microphones’ thus rendering languages barriers mute.
  • A world where instead of looking at a screen, consumers will become accustomed to virtual environments that constantly supplement their world. Travel agents must embrace digital and virtual reality to survive by for example using VR to highlight excursions.

To read the full report on what we can expect in the future, click here

value

Can you quantify how much you are worth?

Travel agents can save their clients a lot of time and money.

I’m sure this will not come as a surprise to you. But, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has now proven it once and for all in their latest report, Best of Both Worlds: Quantifying How Travel Agents Save Consumers Time and Money.

Consumers report that travel agents save them an average $452 (R6714) per trip, and four hours in travel planning.  Perhaps most importantly, consumers said that agents help them avoid costly mistakes.

“At this point, consumers have tried it all – they’ve booked online, they’ve gone direct, and they’ve used a travel agent,” said Zane Kerby, ASTA CEO. “This study dispels once and for all the myth that booking direct with suppliers or spending hours online yourself gets you a better deal or gives you a happier travel experience. In short, if you want a better travel experience, use an agent.”

Customers are flocking back en masse to the travel agent, according to the report. In the past year, a quarter of consumers booked through online travel agencies while 23% booked through travel agents, the highest share reported in three years.

When looking back on their past travel experiences, almost two thirds of agent users said that using a travel agent made the overall trip experience better, while 69% reported that agents save them time in planning and booking. Also when it comes to price, agents stand out with 66% saying travel agents help them avoid costly mistakes and 64% reporting that agents find the better deals.

So, if travel agents want to persuade potential clients of their worth, they should focus on the value they provide to the consumer, from saving the client money to helping them avoid mistakes.

biometrics

Biometrics now required for Australian visas

All applicants, regardless of nationality, who are in South Africa at the time of making a visa application to enter Australia, will be required to provide their biometrics along with their application, unless otherwise excluded or exempted from doing so under Australian Government policy effective immediately.

Australian visa applicants will need to make an appointment at any one of the four Australian Visa Application Centres (AVACs) to provide their biometrics. These AVACs managed by the Australian Government’s Service Delivery Partner TLScontact, are located in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. Appointments can be made by contacting an AVAC or by visiting their website https://au.tlscontact.com/

 

Applicants will still be able to lodge their visa application through any one of the AVACs located across South Africa, where they will also be able to provide biometrics at the same time. Alternatively, visa applicants who send their application by mail or lodge online will be sent a letter requiring them to attend an AVAC to provide their biometrics. Applicants will need to take this letter with them to an AVAC when providing biometrics so the AVAC is able to match their application with the biometrics collected.

 

Some applicants may be fully or partially exempt from providing biometrics under Australian Government policy. Applicants fully exempt from providing biometrics include diplomatic representatives and their dependants, and government officials acting as a representative of a foreign government. Applicants who may be partially exempt from biometric collection include minors less than five years old (photo only required) and mentally or physically incapable persons (photo only required).

 

Currently, Australia is collecting biometric data from visa applicants in 33 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas and will continue to expand globally in the future. The collecting of biometrics from visa applicants will improve visa integrity, reduce identity fraud and improve security and safety for travellers and the Australian community.

 

A new fee structure has also been implemented:

 

  • Primary Applicant Service Delivery Fee                   1017 ZAR
  • Secondary Applicant(s) Service Delivery Fee             814 ZAR
  • Biometric collection only Service Delivery Fee          811 ZAR

The gains and pains of the sharing economy

Although the sharing economy hasn’t had a huge impact on the South African corporate market yet, the trend is slowly starting to emerge with especially Uber becoming a popular option for corporates.

The sharing economy can be a bit of a headache for TMCs and Travel Buyers, as sharing suppliers are rarely included in the corporate travel policy. There are several key considerations when determining if a sharing economy supplier is right for a travel programme.

TMC Carlson Wagonlit Travel shared 10 potential advantages and disadvantages to consider in an article in Buying Business Travel.

Potential Pains

1. Corporate Culture and Traveller Fit

Consider alignment with all travel program components, as well as with overall company philosophy, and the willingness of travellers, young and old, to try something new.

2. Duty of Care

Sharing economy properties and transportation are not always licensed, inspected, or regulated. Buyers must ensure all approved properties are safe and secure.

3. Evolving Regulations

Understand current and changing regulations in key markets along with the related effect on pricing, ease of use, and flexibility. New York ruled that nearly 75% of Airbnb’s listings between 2010 and 2014 were “illegal hotels”.

4. Traveller Inconvenience/Cost Transfer

Weigh the pros and cons of the sharing economy. It could be time-consuming to select trustworthy vendors. Sharing economy accommodations also don’t include amenities that traditional hotels offer such as meals and concierge services.

5. Program Cannibalisation

Analyse the point at which sharing economy usage jeopardises established discounts with other suppliers.

Potential Gains

1. Savings

Uber for Business suggests fares average 40-60% less than a taxi in most major cities.

2. Traveller Experience

Get even more mobile as sharing economy providers transform the users’ experience through slick and simple mobile interfaces, cash-free transactions, feedback and ratings.

3. Supply

Consider additional supply as Airbnb asserts an estimated 550,000 accommodation options or inventory, which makes it in the top five for all hospitality brands considered. Uber is present in 330+ cities in 60+ countries with 100k+ driver partners.

4. Central Billing

Review new functionality as key sharing economy suppliers now market a central billing option on their business travel platforms allowing corporations to streamline payment for all travellers.

5. Reporting

Compare functionality as key sharing economy suppliers market a new offering with detailed reports on traveller usage, total cost and traveller ratings.