Zodwa Tshabalala of Bundu Lodge in Mpumalanga says the elderly and LGBTQI+ community are a vital lifeline for SA’s tourism industry.
She said the two represent desirable markets for South Africa’s travel and tourism industry.
“Stokvels have billions in savings and members are not only interested in saving to buy groceries. They want to go on holiday and want to buy houses, so we are targeting them. We are also in talks with LGBTQ+ tour organisers as the value of the ‘pink rand’ is enormous,” she said.
Tshabalala said the Covid-19 pandemic forced eBundu, which won Lilizela Tourism Awards for Service Excellence in 2019 in both the provincial and national categories, to move away from its staple markets of conferencing and international tourists to focus on overlooked markets.
“We only expect to start seeing the recovery of international tourism next year. Even then, it won’t be at the level that it was before, so the reality is that we need to rely on domestic tourists to grow and survive,” she said.
Tshabalala said tour and travel operators need to be creative in their approach to growing the domestic market as most South Africans do not travel for leisure due to lack of money, fear and intimidation of the unknown, being unaccustomed to travel and also due to lack of suitable tourism products.
“Covid-19 has wrought destruction for the tourism industry. But wherever there is adversity, there is an opportunity. And the opportunity for us lies in the fact that the majority of South Africans do not travel. For them, travel is a luxury and the ambit of the wealthy or more privileged. So, the untapped potential domestic market is huge.
“We, as the travel industry, need to change the perception that travel is only for the wealthy or privileged. We need to have a better understanding of the differing needs of South African travellers and especially would-be travellers and make sure that we cater to that.
“The reality is that tour operators and the hospitality industry are no longer in the driving seat, it is the buyer and customer market. And we need to respond to that and improve our offering if we are to survive. In so doing, it will help us improve South Africa’s tourism offering,” she added.