The COVID pandemic has transformed the travel industry and the way in which people travel, with the majority of travellers from specific countries adopting similar travel preferences, demands, and behaviours. Here’s how jetsetters from Switzerland, in particular, have changed regarding their adventures in Africa since the start of the tourism industry revival, and how this dynamic source market is expected to continue to evolve in the years to come.
1. Demand for types of experience
Swiss travellers are looking for the type of experience from a trip to Africa similar to what they’ve always been after – a destination that promises wide, open spaces, lots of freedom, and a diversity of adventures. Of course, they’re interested in embarking on traditional safaris, but one of the most notable emerging trends regarding demand for specific experiences in Africa is that of self-drive holidays.
While the Swiss are slightly less cautious about resuming travel compared to many other Europeans from other countries, they have definitely shown a penchant for travelling in smaller groups or ‘travel bubbles’.
“Self-drive holidays are big amongst the Swiss at the moment. It provides them with the freedom to drive around and discover a country on their own terms without worries about crowding or social distancing. We’ve also noticed that the Swiss are travelling solo or with a maximum of two or three family or friends,” comments Laurent Chevassut of Terres Sauvage Switzerland.
“Ultimately, they want the liberty to go where they want to go and experience something special and memorable while still remaining in the safety of their little bubble,” he adds.
2. Marketing consumption
Like many other Europeans, the Swiss prefer marketing that’s more factual in nature: straight-to-the-point, informative, decisive, and usually more formal in tone. They tend to rely heavily on digital means to compare destination options when considering where to travel next, with a particular focus on social media.
3. Travel behaviour
As of 2021, a massive number of people from Switzerland fall into the ‘revenge traveller’ category – i.e., people who feel hard done by for missing out on so many opportunities to explore new destinations due to COVID-related restrictions and lockdowns, and who are doing everything in their power to make up for lost time going forward.
The graph below (supplied by wetu) indicates that in January 2020 this market was ready to travel but took a significant dip in requests mid-year. Although the statistics show a huge decrease in itineraries generated thanks to COVID-19, a slow growth in this source market is now evident.
According to Isabelle Dechamps, Founder & Director of BELAFRIQUE, there were very few bookings from Switzerland to Africa during COVID, but that has changed radically in recent times.
“There has been a huge boom in bookings since South Africa was taken off the red list. Everyone has been stuck inside and they all want to travel– and NOW. As in November, December, January, and February. It is challenging to keep up with the increase in demand, but I’m certainly not complaining!”
4. Traveller preferences
As mentioned, most Swiss travellers choose to venture to Africa for the wide, open spaces. They love the idea of going on safari, but also show an interest in learning more about local cultures and way of life.
“They generally seek out well-balanced getaways that are equal parts relaxation and adventure, with a focus on general wellness. Another common focus is on emotive, impactful experiences,” says Isabelle.
Laurent agrees and adds: “The Swiss tend to select South Africa as their primary destination because it offers a greater diversity when it comes to attractions compared to many other popular safari-focused destinations on the continent.”
5. Planning to booking
As mentioned, there has been a significant boom in bookings from Switzerland to South Africa and most of these bookings follow shorter lead times than many travel experts, DMCs, and agencies are used to. According to Isabelle, there are plenty of reasons for this.
“People have seen how quickly things can change during the times of COVID. As such, they’re making quicker decisions and booking more last-minute than in previous years – generally no more than three months in advance. I predict that, going forward, lead times will continue to shorten. People don’t want to plan or think too far into the future at this point.”
6. Tips for adapting to the needs and demands of the Swiss source market
The Swiss enjoy travelling to South Africa because it’s generally considered a friendly, accommodating destination. It’s also a versatile destination due to the fact that it’s a great fit for all types of travel parties.
“We’ve recently seen an increase in multi-generational travel from Switzerland – a relatively new market that South African travel suppliers should be doing their best to cater for. These multi-generational travel parties usually comprise grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren, with many travelling to celebrate a special occasion, or sometimes ‘just because’!” Isabelle says.
7. Obstacles to reaching the Swiss source market
One of the biggest obstacles to reaching the Swiss source market is their desire to explore multiple African countries over the course of one trip. They’re often put off of the idea of visiting Africa when they discover that this is not a convenient approach to a holiday in current times due to various COVID-related restrictions.
“The need to submit to a new PCR test every time a traveller wishes to cross a border on the continent is a massive hurdle that we need to overcome soon.”
Laurent and Isabelle both insist that all travel and tourism businesses make it a priority to lobby for getting rid of PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers or, at the very least, come up with an agreement that allows one PCR test to remain valid for entry into a multitude of African countries for an appropriate length of time.