Traveller behaviour and expectations have evolved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with many travellers around the globe adopting similar habits, preferences, and concerns. Below, we explore how the mindsets of travellers from the Belgium have changed in recent times, the type and scope of experiences they’re looking for, and how travel marketers and suppliers can better reach these individuals going forward.
1. Demand for types of experience
As with most travellers who turn their attention to the prospect of a holiday in Africa, the idea of fresh air and wide, open spaces is extremely appealing to Belgians. As a result, the vast majority of Belgian visitors are opting to embark on safari-focused getaways, according to Evelyn Honorez, a local Belgian agent.
“Safari is definitely at the top of the list because of the open spaces and ease of social distancing. Ultimately, all Belgian travellers are keen to experience new things with their partner or family without worrying about health and safety in the wake of the pandemic.”
Isabelle Dechamps, Founder & Director of BELAFRIQUE, agrees, highlighting how travellers from Belgium are also actively seeking out the small, private game reserves when booking their safari holidays.
“Private game reserves offering access to smaller, more intimate lodges are more popular than ever. After all, they ensure that travellers are surrounded by fewer people and allow them to make the most of the vast landscapes for which the continent is so famous. Another benefit for the Belgians when choosing private game reserve safaris is the option to go the exclusive-use route, booking out an entire lodge for the exclusive use of their travel party, and thus forming a “travel bubble” for greater peace of mind.”
2. Marketing consumption
Evelyn and Isabelle both insist that Belgians are consuming the majority of their travel-related marketing through travel agents at the moment. Obviously, this source market utilises the internet just like any other source market and is exposed to its fair share of travel content on social media. However, having said that, the vast majority of travellers from Belgium are avoiding planning their own holidays nowadays, especially when travelling further afield.
“Africa is big on the bucket list for Belgians, with many making plans to visit the continent next year. But they are all making the decision to book their holiday via a travel agent in order to successfully navigate any red tape along the way. While they used to handle it all themselves and relied heavily on reviews on social media, lots of young travellers, in particular, are looking for security and peace of mind when booking and travelling since borders opened back in April 2021,” comments Evelyn.
3. Travel behaviour
Belgians are generally feeling confident about resuming travel; however, as with the vast majority of other source markets, they’re still taking the necessary precautions to ensure optimal safety. As mentioned, exclusive-use bookings are common.
The graph below (supplied by wetu) indicates that the Belgian market is ready to travel. There was a steady increase in itineraries created on the wetu itinerary platform until Omicron hit in December 2021. A quick recovery in January (nearly back to where they were before the dip in December) bodes well for 2022.
Belgian travellers are also showing an increasing preference for self-drive holidays.
“Belgians are definitely embracing more self-drive getaways. They’re looking for the freedom that these types of holidays provide. For many, it’s wonderful to explore how South Africa offers everything in one country. They get seaside, safari, the Winelands, the mountains, and so much more. It’s a great selling point!” says Evelyn.
4. Traveller preferences
Isabelle and Evelyn both claim that it’s impossible to put all Belgians into a single ‘box’ when it comes to traveller preferences.
“Every traveller, and every travel party, is different. Some want luxury and relaxation. Some want activity and adventure. Some want a bit of both. You have to work on a case-by-case basis.” Isabelle comments.
5. Planning to book
Lead times are balanced from within the Belgian source market. There are many who are taking a cautious approach to booking and scheduling their African holidays well in advance for late 2022 and beyond, while others are embracing much shorter lead times, with a strong tendency towards departure in early 2022.
6. Tips for adapting to the needs and demands of the Belgian source market
Unsurprisingly, communication is key to successfully adapting to the needs and demands of the Belgian traveller. This is true regarding COVID protocols, but also providing access to clear, concise directions, as Isabelle points out.
“As for COVID regulations, make sure all necessary COVID protocols are in place and go out of your way to demonstrate to the Belgian traveller that you’ve thought about how to prioritise their health and safety. Provide extra reassurance where you can.”
7. Obstacles to reaching the Belgian source market
An obstacle to reaching the Belgian source market is neglecting to diversify and adapt messaging based on age, gender, and background. Isabelle insists on the importance of avoiding looking at the Belgian source market as a whole, and instead encourages travel marketers and suppliers to focus more on demographics when tweaking marketing and experiences.