Africa’s own domestic travel market will be at the forefront driving recovery of the sector post COVID-19, and it’s up to the leisure and business accommodation industry to get behind what these markets will demand as doors open once again, says Minor Hotels’ Mark Havercroft.
It was two years ago that a PwC report identified the importance of local markets for the African travel sector, and the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic make these more relevant than ever. In its PwC Hotels outlook: 2018-2022 Positioning for future growth, the company predicted the steady growth of the domestic tourism market across the continent, noting the principal role this market plays in a number of African countries where strong economies support and drive domestic tourism.
Interestingly, for us it was primarily the appeal of this local market, and what we could offer African travellers, that attracted Minor Hotels to the continent in the first place. Today, we have operations in Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Seychelles, Tanzania and Kenya.
Africa has also been identified by McKinsey & Company as the world’s youngest and fastest-urbanising continent, with predictions that it will have a larger working population than either China or India by 2034. There is already evidence of a significant rise of a strong middle class, and it stands to reason, therefore, that this will be followed by an increased demand in terms of both the business travel and tourism leisure markets.
However, while recovery post COVID-19 will indeed mean that local travellers will first look to what is available within their own borders as countries begin to reopen, it will be critical to find ways to retain these markets into the future. At each step of the way, it will be critical that the offerings reflect the fact that very close attention has been paid to what African travellers both need and desire and, in both instances, what they can afford to spend.
In certain respects, there will need to be a tailoring away from the price tags that international markets have been prepared to pay, while still offering domestic travellers the same opportunities within their own countries.
It goes without saying that personal safety from a Covid-19 perspective and quality must be the top priority across all aspects, from the location of hotels, the servicing of rooms and the technology available on site, to the package deals hotels offer in partnership with other service providers in the vicinity.
This speaks especially to the growing development in recent years of consumers choosing memorable experiences over and above a demand for material possessions. In a more recent PwC report (PwC Hotels outlook: 2019-2023), it was noted that 50% of travellers would rather spend money on an experience than a shopping spree.
Returning to the issue of price, the same PwC report also notes the necessity for a supply of affordable hotels to specifically accommodate domestic travellers. To this end, we anticipate that accommodation in offerings such as our own Avani Nairobi Suites serviced apartments in Kenya, set to open later this year, will prove to be a popular choice for both the mid-scale and extended-stay markets. It’s likely to also prove popular with “bleisure” travellers – another local market expected to burgeon as business travellers extend their stays and travel in family groups.
That’s not to say, of course, that there will be no demand for luxury offerings, and we anticipate that as travellers begin to explore their own countries, albeit tentatively at first, they’ll increasingly look towards attractive higher-end options. It’s for that reason that Minor Hotels brought the full range of our brands to the African continent; our luxury Anantara brand in Mauritius, Zambia and Mozambique, our Elewana safari experiences in Kenya and Tanzania, and our Avani city and resort brand in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zambia.
The bottom line is that as the world begins to emerge from international lockdown, it’s time for Africans to explore Africa and for those who are preparing to welcome this market to their establishments, the key to catering for them is wisdom, insight and understanding ensuring they’ll keep returning long into the future.