14 March 2011

Global tourism headed toward a very different future

In China, 400 million people have moved above the poverty line over the last few years and, in India, 150 million people. Demand driven markets are being created. These are the world’s new middle-class travellers.

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold. Mariette du Toit-Helmbold.

Destinations must understand how new travel behaviours will impact on us and we must adjust our marketing, communications and offerings to meet the needs of our customers. - Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO Cape Town Tourism

Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, attended the ITB Future Day conference at the ITB Berlin Convention, which runs parallel to ITB Berlin, the world's leading trade fair, held at Messe in Berlin recently.

ITB Future Day identifies the mega trends in economy and society and highlights their impact on the global tourism industry.

Du Toit-Helmbold shared some of her insights and highlighted some of the predications she found most relevant to Cape Town and the future of travel.

'The 3 most relevant trends affecting the tourism industry are globalisation, demographic change of our customers, and climate change,' she said.

'With 935 million trips in 2010, world tourism is firmly on the growth path, but those destinations hoping for a recovery to what we were used to before the recession are in for a rude awakening. The world is a different place and people's travel behaviour has changed fundamentally and forever.'

Growth, according to speakers at ITB Future Day, is being driven by emerging markets such as Asia and South America while mature markets are experiencing low growth.

World travel in 2011 is predicted to grow by 3 to 4%, with confidence highest in Asia and South America. China and India are the economic powerhouses of the future and Asia is expected to see a double-digit outbound growth in 2011. Around 46 million Chinese travelled abroad last year, as did over 4 million Indians.

'There is huge opportunity in these new markets for Cape Town, especially during our off-peak winter months, but we should not rush in without a plan and without understanding more about these new customers,' Du Toit-Helmbold said.

ITB Future day also highlighted new travel behaviours, said Du Toit-Helmbold.

'Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have,' she explained, 'and climate change is not only directly affecting the cost of aviation, but is also speaking to people's moral values. More and more people will question the acceptability of flying long-haul for recreational or leisure purposes.'

She said Cape Town, as a long-haul destination, must be able to answer these tough questions and promote sustainable local experiences to offset long-haul travel. It is predicted that individual carbon budgets could be in the pipeline.

'We must be ready for dramatic change in this arena,' Du Toit-Helmbold concluded.