World Travel Market 2011 reports back on key trends in global travel

Cape Town Tourism is wrapping up a very successful and insightful few days at the World Travel Market in London, one of the leading global events for the travel industry. Almost 48 000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media are said to have descended on the Exhibition Centre London on November 7 and 10 to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.

At the session about the latest WTM Global Trends Report, several key emerging international travel trends were discussed.

Global arrivals are predicted to slow down by 5.8% from last year but by 2012 are anticipated to break the one billion arrivals barrier—accumulating in a total spend of almost US$1 trillion. The global overview was of “recovery on the brink” with many analysts anticipating a double dip recession, specifically in Europe. Rising fuel and commodity prices, taxation, austerity procedures, political turmoil and social unrest are all reported to have contributed to the slower GDP growth. Across all markets, online marketing is considered to be the most significant growth area in the long term.

Key trends were reported on per region:

The tourism industry is seeing the rise of mystery trips in North America. Millenials aged 20 to 34 are the main target of the mystery trips. Luxury operators review their customer profiles and customise mystery experiences in often new and unknown destinations.

The outlook in the UK remains bleak with a stagnant economy and value remains key. Travellers are progressively searching for cheap alternate destinations and accommodation options such as campsites and hostels. A growing alternative is garden camping, in which travellers rent garden spaces in which to camp out.

Following the global economic crisis, a new kind of luxury tourism is emerging in Europe – more authentic and ethical travel with responsible and sustainable travel high on the agenda. In Europe the high-end segment is outperforming its mid- and lower-tiered counterparts although the region is being threatened by a double-dip recession.

Political and social unrest in the Middle East has resulted in a 6.2% decline in tourism arrivals in 2011 compared to 11.5% growth in 2010. Some countries in this region are placing considerable focus on country and regional rebranding exercises.

Africa is leading the world in mobile commerce (m-commerce) with 60% of mobile web users utilising mobile phones to purchase goods. The upwardly mobile population means that Africa is taking travel to those who were traditionally excluded from it. WTM Chairman Fiona Jeffery said the mobile payment systems are commercially and economically important for all sectors operating in the region, with travel and tourism ideally placed to take advantage.

Asia’s economies continue to enjoy healthy growth and intra-regional travel is high on the agenda. Arrivals and incoming tourists are expected to increase as more middle-class travellers explore the region for the first time. Spending by Chinese travellers on accommodation domestically and abroad is increasing and hotel companies are beginning to customise their brands in China, partnering with Chinese companies, and creating programmes to cater to the Chinese abroad.

Gamification, or the integration of gaming dynamics in non-gaming environments, is now a growing movement in the travel and tourism industry. By encouraging consumers to join competitions and share their experiences, photos and videos, the trend generates brand awareness and loyalty for destinations. Gamification appeals predominately to 18- to 34-year-olds and allows destinations to target specific markets, build awareness, grow an online community and add information, competition, games and special offers. The “Ireland Town” game on Facebook, where users can visit distinguished tourist attractions in Ireland and share the experience with their friends, is a good example of this.

Social media has been at the forefront of tourism marketing activities during 2011 although uncertainty remains about how to determine return on investment. The social media focus is shifting to loyalty programmes, bookings, concierge and customer service and the aim is to capitalise on friends/followers’ influence to drive bookings and build loyalty. Hotels around the world are rethinking their marketing strategies to target online audiences in a more tailored and intimate way. For hotels, the benefits were seen as helping enhance brand awareness, opening direct lines of communication and enabling them to aim exclusive offers at online followers.

For more on these key trends see Eight key trends in global travel by Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold.

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