Despite the global travel sector facing many hurdles linked to the pandemic, there are promising signs of recovery in 2022. If you’re a local supplier looking for the latest insights on the UK travel market, here’s what they’re looking for on future trips to the African continent.
Demand for types of experience
What’s interesting about this market is that it seems as though they are looking for similar holiday experiences they booked pre-Covid.
Having been grounded for so long, they’re likely to have higher spending power, so upgrades on suites and opting for extra comfort will likely be of interest to them.
According to Harriet Whitmarsh, Senior Destination Manager at Scott Dunn, UK travellers are leaning towards all the things they loved before the pandemic. “There are many enquiries for family trips and birthday celebrations like 40ths and 60ths,” she says. “It seems he African destinations that were popular pre-Covid are back on the list, such as South Africa, Kenya, and Botswana.
She also notes a high interest in wildlife conservation experiences, particularly led by women, and a desire for more sustainable accommodation options.
According to Whitmarsh, there is a solid uptick for African destinations. “The more adventurous individuals are leading the charge for long haul flights. We are getting many enquiries in which is positive.”
Since the UK market is showing interest in their traditional African holiday choices they opted for pre-Covid, marketers can refer to previous content for inspiration. There isn’t a massive difference in what they wanted then, from current bookings and enquiries to what they want now.
“Africa is an incredible destination, and that in itself makes it highly appealing to UK travellers,” says Helen Bolton, International Sales Manager at New Frontiers Tours. “There’s no need to do anything too drastic or to overthink the content you put out to attract this market. With beautiful landscapes and wildlife, Africa has everything they want already, so make an effort to highlight it.”
Traditionally, this market consists of one destination travellers, with a handful of clients opting for an extension in a second location. They are very much the opposite to US travellers in this sense.
“Generally, they stick to regional travel, which will remain the same this year especially to avoid too much PCR testing,” Bolton says. “They’re more likely to add on extra destinations as the year progresses, and they build more confidence.”
It’s important to note that this market will become reliant on the guidance of travel agents during their holidays to Africa. They need to have additional support and peace of mind in the event of abrupt changes.
“We were seeing momentum starting to build in October 2021 until Omicron hit, which shows the desire to travel to Africa was and is there,” she adds.
In the graph below (provided by wetu), indicating the number of itineraries created for this market, we can see that there was a steady increase in the interest from the UK towards the end of 2021 (before Omicron). January 2022 has shown a significant recovery after the drop in December, making this a promising start for Africa.
Pre-pandemic trends are poised to make a comeback in 2022. “Travelling with a light footprint and with purpose was always a theme which we predict will continue to gain strong momentum over the next year,” says Whitmarsh.
This market will also prefer destinations that are easy to access and depart from, especially when travelling with family members. “They’re going to want to avoid confusing flight schedules or destinations that are too remote or high risk, with regulations that keep changing,” she adds.
Planning to book
“In November 2021, many bookings were cancelled right up until February 2022 due to Omicron, but now that we’re in 2022, we’ve experienced a quick bounce back in the last two weeks of January,” Bolton explains.
“This quick turnaround time is quite surprising for this market. Traditionally this traveller will book up to a year in advance and more. Recently, we’ve seen some last-minute bookings where the lead time is around a month.”
As a market characterised by longer lead times, she expects their traditional booking habits to return slowly over the next few months as we see more stability. Longer lead times into 2023 and 2024 may also be as a result of availability issues.
Obstacles to reaching the UK source market
- Travel restrictions are subject to change in response to the ever-evolving circumstances surrounding Covid-19 in 2022.
- As bookings increase throughout the year, ease of access and availability is likely to be a challenge. We can expect that it will result in longer lead times.
- New and complicated flight connection schedules might deter some travellers, especially when it comes to regional travel.
- PCR testing, recovery certificates and restriction disparities between African continents will add an element of stress to flying for this market, especially families.
- As an additional hurdle, deposits and upfront payments for holiday bookings will be higher than this market is used to. The suppliers will also not be as flexible as they were pre-Covid.
- Aside from airlift in general accessibility, airfares are also expected to remain relatively high, which will affect those sticking to a budget.