Our long term Covid experience has forever transformed the global travel industry. However, there is still plenty to look forward to as we continue working towards its recovery in 2022. In the spirit of staying abreast of Africa’s source markets, here’s how Australian travellers’ attitudes to travel have changed and what they’re expecting on future trips to the continent.
1. Demand for types of experience
With the easing of international travel bans towards the end of 2021, Australian travellers are ready to get out and see the world once again.
According to Anthony Goldman, Joint Managing Director Goldman Group, ‘revenge travel’ now tops the agenda, with the desire to make up for lost time.
“Revenge travel is a term I personally love,” he says. “With international travel bans now lifted, Australians are going to want to take revenge after being grounded for so long by planning travel to bucket list destinations. This means all those wonderful African countries will benefit from this change in mindset.”
With their strong sense of adventure, Australian travellers will continue to desire rich and immersive experiences. Think epic wildlife encounters and hot air balloon excursions across breathtaking landscapes.
“The vast majority of these travellers are also predicted to have an increased demand for exclusive and bespoke holidays minus the crowds, Sean Kritzinger Chairman and co-owner Giltedge Travel Group.
“Rather than big brand hotels in the middle of the city, they are more likely to seek out boutique hotels and local guest houses in quieter corners of the continent.”
2. Marketing consumption
Right now, building trust is most crucial when attracting Australian travellers through one’s marketing efforts. Information going out should not only be thoughtful and targeted but highly informative: regular newsletters, social media updates, insightful webinars and videos where they can see a friendly face.
“Traditionally, Australians aren’t nervous travellers. However, genuine testimonials and first-hand accounts from other travellers who have recently visited countries in Africa will encourage them to get over that initial hump,” Anthony explains.
“Being quite straightforward and down to earth, they will appreciate information that is easy to digest. Aside from a focus on safety, it’s still important to make it exciting,” he adds. “Our advice to clients right now is if you’re thinking about it, don’t delay. Go out now and travel because who knows what’s going to happen.”
3. Travel behaviour
International booking volume is generally high at the start of the year. However, the Australian market was relatively quiet at the beginning of 2022, with a smattering of veteran travellers gearing up to go without hesitation.
The low volume in enquiries and bookings right now makes this market segment vastly different from other substantially more active markets, such as the US, the UK, and various countries across Europe. “It’s going to take some time for the majority to regain their confidence,” Sean explains.
The drastic drop in bookings is apparent in the graph above (supplied by wetu), which shows the effect that COVID-19 had on travel itineraries booked into Africa. According to wetu, this market showed progressive improvement over time and saw the best response at the end of 2021 before the Omicron variant took the industry by surprise.
Due to the geological location of Australia, Australian travellers have also generally been more inclined to take longer holidays and visit multiple destinations. However, he notes a predicted decrease in the number of countries they intend to visit in order to minimise Covid risk, testing, and paperwork.
And while enquiries are low for Africa, Anthony further highlights that this doesn’t necessarily mean Africa is entirely off their radar.
“Australian travellers are still dreaming about holidays there, so a steady uptick in bookings is predicted as the year progresses and they slowly regain confidence,” he says. “Looking ahead, predictions lean towards a steady increase in international enquiries and forward bookings around April or May in 2022.”
4. Traveller preferences
As mentioned, Australians are generally quite relaxed and laidback travellers. They are noted as having a keen interest in immersive cultural experiences, wildlife, and other outdoor activities.
“Having been in lockdown for so long, this source market will also have a higher budget to play with, so upgrades and add-ons are certainly the way to go,” comments Sean. “They will be open to upgrading from standard rooms to suites and villas. This is an opportunity to upsell and encourage value-adds. Don’t assume these travellers will book the same thing as they did pre-Covid.”
Regarding sustainability, return travellers within this market generally tend to show greater interest in experiences that link to community upliftment or wildlife preservation. Having been to Africa before affords them greater awareness and understanding than first time travellers.
5. Planning to book
One can expect longer lead times within this market segment until their confidence resumes, with the exception of experienced travellers eager to book and fly.
“Airlift has always played a big part in where we can go and when which continues to be the case”, says Anthony. “We can now expect more time going into the planning process. Some might also be more inclined to first ‘test the waters’ with a trip closer to home before jet setting over to Africa.”
6. Tips for adapting to the needs and demands of the Australian source market
To build trust with this market segment, African travel agents, DMCs, and other tourism stakeholders must showcase their value by providing accurate and up-to-date information on important matters such as visas, vaccine passports and other necessary paperwork.
“What’s most crucial in adapting to the needs of Australian travellers is to be there for them. To be present on the ground and readily accessible via instant communication platforms like WhatsApp in the interim,” Sean adds.
“Ensure they aren’t overwhelmed by encouraging them to visit too many cross-border destinations in one trip. Adding in too much travel time and increasing and the need for Covid testing will detract from their overall experience.”
Adding to this, Anthony says: “I can’t imagine our travellers would be able to do it all themselves. As an Aussie traveller myself, I need to complete a grand total of 11 steps going to the UK and Europe for business. As an experienced traveller, it’s still daunting. We need to have someone to guide us along the way.”
Australian travellers are also more likely to book through well-established travel brands than emerging companies with little to no experience. “This is the time to showcase your experience and expertise,” he insists.
7. Obstacles to reaching the Australian source market
At this point in time, fully vaccinated Australian citizens, permanent residents, and eligible visa holders can travel to and from Australia without needing a travel exemption. However, in saying this, travel restrictions are subject to change in response to the ever-evolving circumstances surrounding Covid-19 in 2022.
“After being grounded for so long, Australians are still hesitant to go out into the world, particularly when it comes to the decision making of their government,” says Sean. “One of their primary concerns is the closing of their own borders while being out of the country.”
Adding to this, as borders only opened in December 2021, travellers who are ready and comfortable to travel are likely to first head to destinations closer to home.
“Within the trend of reunion travel, many will prioritise visiting close friends and relatives first before embarking on their bucket list holidays to Africa,” he concludes.