Trends in tourism

By Terri Adendorff

Tourists have, in recent years, become far more than backpack-wielding happy snappers. The new tourist is increasingly discerning, and is looking to invest in an experience. In order for South Africa to compete as one of the world’s top travel destinations, tourism operators must adapt to the changing needs of their market.

As tourists change, so does the tourism industry. New trends are emerging, and those involved in the industry must be ready to stay ahead of the curve by tailoring their services to the new landscape of tourism.

South Africa’s tourism projections look more promising than ever. In 2015, it is estimated that South Africa will receive over 13.5 million tourists – an increase of 4.8% in total tourism demand. The steady rise in South Africa’s popularity as a tourist destination means that R318.2 billion will be brought in by the tourism industry alone in 2015. In order to gain a part of this lucrative pie, those in the industry (or those looking to enter it) should make note of the following trends, and explore the opportunities they represent:

Adventure tourism

South Africa provides the perfect setting for the more adventurous tourist. Tourists are looking for a visceral and unforgettable experience, whether it comes from jumping off of a gorge or standing close to a fierce predator. The shrewd tour operator will take advantage of such adrenaline-seeking predispositions, by incorporating activities to get the heart racing. The plethora of wildlife, stunning hiking trails, majestic mountains and surfing opportunities are just a few of the characteristics that make South Africa the perfect destination for the risk-taking tourist. Determine what adventures lie in wait by analysing your location. If you operate in a coastal region, why not add boating adventures or shark cage diving experiences to your repertoire of services?

Hiking huts on Hoerikwaggo trail at Constantia Nek. Photo Viv of Scenic South

Hiking huts on Hoerikwaggo trail at Constantia Nek. Photo Viv of Scenic South

Cultural tourism

Tourists want to experience new cultures and observe different ways of life. This immersion is easy to attain in South Africa, where cultures are varied and remain authentic. South Africa is ranked highly among international tourists because of its richness in cultural diversity. Recently, the “township tour” has become popular, as tourists feel immersed in the unique experience of visiting townships and interacting with people. Most tourists want to experience cultural extremes and see things they have never seen before. Incorporate traditional food, music or performances to your basket of services – allowing your client insight into the customs of a different culture. South Africa is full of unique cultural experiences, and these are for the tour operator to exploit.

Geo-local tourism

The new trend in tourism is to explore one’s own back yard, so to speak. Tourism within South Africa is increasing, and locals are discovering that a vacation in a different region of their home country can be a unique and exotic experience. South Africa has so many variant landscapes, cultures and experiences to offer. For instance, someone from the Free State could feel like a tourist in Cape Town, as the landscape, culture and climate are very different. Tour operators should take advantage of the increased travel within South Africa, and tailor their programmes to suit locals, as well as foreign tourists. This trend is especially promising, as inter-country travel can occur at any point in the year. Most foreign visitors arrive “in season”, and the “out of season” period can be extremely quiet. Offering specials to visitors arriving in the out of season period will attract more local visitors and cushion the financial blow of a post-season lull.

If you are willing to expand and adapt to changing trends, your operation will be relevant to the ever evolving tourist, and garner the rewards of South Africa’s expanding potential as a covetable destination.

To learn more about the current trends in tourism, consider the part-time University of Cape Town Tourism Management short course, presented online throughout South Africa. Contact Jade on 021 447 7565 or for more information. Alternatively, visit


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