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Global Travel Trends Released at ITB Berlin

by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold on 06.03.2014

International tourism reached a new record high in 2013 with a 4-5% growth forecast for 2014 despite the uncertain world economy. Outbound travel grew by 4% in terms of trips and spend was up by 6%.

Emerging markets such as China and Russia were again the top success stories with high growth rates for outbound travel while Asia and Europe performed well. The good news for South Africa is that Europe, still our biggest source market, is expected to show solid growth in 2014 on the back of a two-year period of economic depression.

Some destinations like Egypt, Thailand and Turkey are facing political turmoil, whilst the tourism industry in Syria has collapsed completely. Others, like Greece, although still unsettled, seem to have turned the tide with double-digit tourism growth.

In 2013 952 million outbound trips were recorded (5% growth), bednights increased by 4% to 7,6 billion nights and travel spending rose with 6%.

In 2013 952 million outbound trips were recorded.

Whilst there is an optimism in the air at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest gathering of travel trade and media, there is consensus that today’s traveller buys and travels differently. This makes the need for greater flexibility, mobility and innovation in destination marketing more crucial than ever before.

The global tourism sector needs to tune in, adapt and place the traveller at the centre of tourism marketing and decision making.

It feels good to walk the streets of Berlin.

It is my first year attending ITB as Chief Destineer of Destinate, my new destination marketing agency baby established in 2013 after almost ten years at the helm of Cape Town Tourism.

It feels good to walk the streets of Berlin and the halls of ITB as a free agent and an entrepreneur with my ear to the ground, my finger on the pulse of this exciting industry and my eyes on the horizon of change. 

This year also marks the global debut for South African wine tourism as we launch the first official wine tourism campaign with Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Stellenbosch 360 at ITB. 

The potential of wine tourism in South Africa is huge, and Stellenbosch, the wine tourism and gourmet capital of the country, is perfectly placed to attract more wine tourists.

A recent study by Tourism New Zealand found that 13% of all international travellers visit wineries and embark on wine tourism related activities annually. These travellers spend more on average than other leisure travellers and stay longer.

It is no wonder that wine producing destinations now focus a lot more on wine tourism promotions. You can read more about Stellenbosch Experience here.

Berlin's creativity spills into the street. (Photo by Skye Grove) 

IPK International’s Global Travel Trends Report released at the ITB Convention remains a highlight of the show and is a good opportunity to reflect on what these global trends mean for the tourism industry.

Here are a few highlights from the report.

  • 2013 results paint a rosier picture for outbound travel with 5% growth in outbound trips (952 million), 4% growth in bednights (7,6 billion) and 6% growth in spend (989 billion Euro).

  • The forecast for 2014 is good with a robust growth of 4 – 5% expected for the international travel market.

  • The continued, albeit modest, growth in the developed world can be linked to more individual trips, whilst emerging markets will grow fast due to a surge in first-time visitors. The ’new world middle class’ is expected to double by 2030, resulting in 1.5 billion more middle-class people eager to travel around the world. This will change the face of tourism as tourism becomes a global lifestyle.

  • The traditional "big three" markets - Germany, the USA and the UK - are now being challenged strongly. Whilst they showed moderate growth of 1-3%, China juped to number one for total spending with a 26% rise in outbound trips last year. China is also number two for the volume of trips and number four for the quantity of overnight stays.

  • Leisure travel is still outgrowing business travel and over the last five years spending on holidays has grown by 25% and on ’Visiting Family & Friends’ (VFR) by 17%, while business travel only increased by 16%.

  • It is indeed the age of the urban tourist. Since 2009, city trips has increased by 47%. In contrast, the largest segment, sun and beach holidays grew by 12% while countryside trips declined by 10%.

  • Also promising for South Africa is a growth (5%) in the number of Europeans taking winter holidays.

  • The MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) segment now accounts for 54% of the total business travel market. Within the MICE segment, incentives (+61%), conventions (+44%) and conferences (+27%) have all grown strongly since 2009, but traditional company trips have dipped with 10%. The line between business and leisure travel is blurring, hence the now popular term of “bleisure” travellers.

  • The web and social media will continue to gain more and more relevance. The internet increased its dominance as a booking channel to 65% this year with a 10% rise in bookings while travel agency bookings increased by only 4%, resulting in a market share of 24%. Nearly every second European outbound traveller is part of the social media community and 16% of them use social media to plan their trips.

  • Some say that internet based bookings in traditional markets seem close to saturation with the role of travel agents strengthening in new markets as they need more support as 1st time travellers.  Read some of my thoughts on the changing role of the tour operator in the age of the millennial traveller here.

IPK International’s World Travel Monitor is the world’s largest international tourism market study with surveys taken in more than 60 countries and more than 500 000 interviews conducted annually.

You can download the IPK International Travel Trends Report here.

With 200 million more international trips per year, tourism is a sector that really matters.

With 200 million more international trips per year, tourism is a sector that really matters. It needs a lot more attention and support from government with more focus on improved access, less-stringent security measures that eat away at the precious hours available to explore the world and investment in infrastructure.

My favourite quote from ITB thus far reminds me just why it’s worth paying attention to global trends: “Innovation lives where major trends overlap”.

You can follow Mariette on Twitter and read more about travel trend predictions for 2014 here.