Africa Travel Week
Gillian Saunders

Passionate about education in the Hospitality and Tourism sector

Meet Gillian Saunders, author and regular commentator in the media on many issues related to Tourism and Hospitality. 

She is a member (and previous chairperson) of the board of the University of Johannesburg’s School of Tourism and Hospitality and is passionate about education and education in the Hospitality and Tourism sector. 

Gillian has consulted extensively in many aspects of the industry for the public and private sector throughout Africa.  Her work includes tourism destination and tourism marketing strategies and plans, and working on many aspects of feasibility, market development, economic and social impacts across the industry including for hotel and tourism accommodation, conference and exhibition industry, air-routes, airports, attractions, and more.     

This passionate industry player has worked in the industry in Europe and South Africa, and has so much experience in the industry that she can call this her lifestyle rather than job.  

What are the key challenges you see for the travel and tourism industry?    

Travel is currently seen globally as being responsible for the spread of COVID-19 – the whipping boy – hence governments over-use travel bans and restrictions to appease their fearful, anti-travel populations.    

We are witnessing a lot of the UK saying that the opening up to double vaccinated travellers from Europe and the USA was “reckless”, increasing challenges within the industry globally.  

What are the key opportunities you see for the travel and tourism industry?  

Travel and tourism remain amazing ways for people to widen their horizons, see new places, people and cultures. There is a post-lockdown desire for travel amongst many and to make these trips tick the bucket list.   

South Africa and Africa offer perfect “lifetime” holidays in outdoor, wide-open spaces and linked to contributing to communities, environment and sustainability – we have the perfect offering.   

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  – Mark Twain (apart from the men bit which would now be “people”  

What are your predictions on the changes we will see in the tourism industry going forward?  

We will see more emphasis on communities be it in Barcelona or Venice or adjacent to Parks in Africa.  Tourists are visiting peoples’ “homes” and those people need to be happy to have them in their neighbourhoods and feel that they can also benefit by being involved. Tourists and locals need to be aware of the potential negative impact on the locals’ “homes” and caution against over-tourism.  

Can you tell us about some of the travel trends you have noticed and how it has affected your work? 

Trends relate to the changes as per the above.  People are seeking sustainable tourism experiences where they gain personal growth value through what they see and learn, who they interact with and who they travel with. They help the planet and people in some way at the same time, especially to ensure offsetting carbon footprints/carbon guilt of travel. This also leads to more “like a local” experiences. Destination marketing has to move towards integrating the experiences offered so that locals/residents are enjoying the same experiences alongside the tourists. 

What is your view on virtual events vs. live events – what are the benefits and challenges that you have seen or foresee? 

There will be a few years when there will be a large virtual element to shows, however, the face to face and networking, including social networking is hard to replicate – so over time face to face will come back. But the cost of virtual is attractive, so combinations will endure, the key is to differentiate the face-to-face from the virtual based on value and charge. Exhibitors have long struggled with which shows to attend due to costs, options will now be available to attend more shows, some virtually to save on cost. 

What is the importance of travel and tourism shows like Africa Travel Week, including World Travel Market Africa? 

With destinations such as those in Africa, a more experiential interaction with buyers is very helpful, especially with new buyers. Africa is “far off” and less understood by many buyers compared to the US or Europe, or even the East. There is a confidence-building benefit of fac- to-face shows, actual interaction with the supplier, as well as a trip that allows buyers to see some of the destination. 

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.