Cape Town Tourism attended the 8th African Road Show in North America. This show was to promote tourism in Africa and to gain insight into what the North American market wants. Their findings show that “Cape Town is well-known and remains a favourite destination for the North American market. Cape Town is perceived to be a gateway for safari experiences across South Africa. The North American market is interested in luxury and cultural experiences – they want to engage with the locals”.
Here are some of the findings put together by Cape Town Tourism including some suggestions from Tourist Guide Institute on how tourist guides and tour operators can use this information to deliver a quality Capetonian product that meets the North American tourists expectations:
Have you visited Cape Town recently? – 99% of buyers have been to Cape Town, either in their personal capacity or as part of FAM trips. Buyers are familiar with and love Cape Town.

This shows that American tourists visiting South Africa will almost always include Cape Town on their itinerary. I would suggest that when you are designing an itinerary for South Africa, make Cape Town the final destination so that the tourists leave SA on a high note. This WOW memory will encourage them to promote SA to their friends and also encourage them to come back.

Are you aware of Cape Town’s new offerings? – Buyers were keen to gain more information on what is new and unique to sell in Cape Town with a focus on safari, luxury experiences and other typical western-based activities.

Tourist guides and tour operators need to keep abreast of the new products available in Cape Town so that they can include something new into their itineraries each year. Don’t produce the same old same old product visiting only the Big 7. We need to show that Cape Town has more to offer and that the tourist can keep coming back as there is always something for them to see and experience. Go to Indaba and other trade shows to see what new products are available.

Do you have any concerns? – Buyers showed concern around safety, specifically in the Cape Flats areas, as well as around the high prices quoted by tour operators.

We always need to address safety and minimise any potential risk or hazard. Caring for the customers’ needs, health and safety is of utmost importance for any operator and guide. Take tourists only to places that have minimal risk potential and where any incidences can be managed quickly and safely. A guide needs to be constantly aware of potential ‘hot spots’ in and around town. Tip for guides: read the daily newspapers, visit News24 or other websites for up to date local news, follow them and local traffic departments on twitter to get daily updates, be on Guides Unite Facebook page or other groups of guides Facebook pages as guides update what is happening daily. Phone Cape Town Tourism to see if they can also assist.

The second part of the concerns above, is something close to TGI’s heart. We must not be greedy charging ridiculously high rates to our tourists as they will find somewhere cheaper to go for their holidays. We often find that accommodations in Cape Town charge much higher rates than in other parts of the country and often they are not willing to negotiate even when you are sending them a large group. We need to keep Cape Town an affordable destination for all and not just for the rich and famous. Many people save for a long time for this holiday of a life time and all service providers need to charge what is fair and competitive. We also feel that some entrance fees such as SANparks and Robben Island are very high and often exclude the domestic market catering for the foreign market. It is something else to keep in mind.

American customer profile

• Customer profile: High end, well-travelled, mature travellers and honeymooners. American travellers from California, Texas, Florida, Washington, New York and New Jersey predominately travel to Cape Town.

Honeymooners open up opportunities for driver guides in a smaller vehicle. The operators and guides need to choose accommodation and restaurants with romantic, amazing views and settings. Wine tours to different, niche wine farms, nature walks and gardens, some outdoor adventure etc should be included in the itineraries. When catering for the mature market, we suggest using a mature guide with life experience. The itinerary also needs to allow for sufficient time at places and meals. Operators and guides must realise that these tourist are on holiday and want to relax not rush from site to site.

• Length of travel: 10 days in total – with an average of 4 days in Cape Town only.

What a lovely challenge to try and get the tourist to be 5 – 6 days in Cape Town. We need to look at what they are doing in the other provinces and include some of those activities in Cape Town. For example instead of Soweto, include a township experience in Langa or Gugs etc, for a safari look at Fairy Glen or Aquila as day trips and so on.

• Travel pattern: Cape Town – Kruger National Park – Victoria Falls – Botswana.

• American consumers travel to Cape Town during May – September.

With this comes a weather challenge. Tour operators need to factor in alternatives to Table Mountain, Robben Island, Duiker Island boat cruises and other activities that are weather dependant. Tourist guides should also have some alternatives as a backup in case the weather turns foul. Look at some exciting indoor activities such as a tour at Parliament, go to the Heart Museum in Observatory, visit an art gallery in Woodstock, Two Oceans Aquarium etc.

• Consumers prefer 4 – 5 star accommodation in the City Centre.

g accommodation.City Centre is very convenient for traffic and travel, but tour operators can also look at accommodation in Green Point, Sea Point, Camps Bay and even Mowbray, Rosebank, Pinelands and Rondebosch etc as these places also have easy access to the city. It is fun to also try some smaller boutique hotels, guest houses and bed & breakfasts. Cape Town has a host of really great 4- 5 star establishments and many sites on the internet advertising accommodation.

• The currency plays to their favour – SA is affordable with great luxury options.
• Preferred DMC’s: Ker & Downey, New Frontiers, Wilderness, Thompson, Tour D Afrique and Journey Beyond
• Top Airlines used: Qatar, Emirates, KLM
• Preferably business class, proves to be more comfortable than SAA business class
• Consumer prefers to travel via Dubai or London, in order to avoid a stopover in Johannesburg

What the US traveller is interested in

• Cape Town attractions or activities: Cape Town Big 7, township and cultural experiences, shopping, food and wine experiences, adventure activities and golf experiences.

Once again variety is the key, what new products are available, how can my tour be new and exciting?
Don’t do the same old same old township tour – what can be added to make the experience worthwhile for the tourist and the locals? Visit a local home for lunch, have a cooking lesson to make some local dishes, spend time at an art centre, look at local initiatives, cycle through the township etc
Shopping – look for shops that sell Proudly South African products of quality, also don’t visit the same shops – aim to support many Cape Town retailers. The tourist guide must not turn the tour however into a shopping spree looking for commissions. Tourist are not stupid and can see right through a guide punting a particular shop. The guide should rather take them to a shopping centre eg the V&A, Cape Quarter, Biscuit Mill etc and let them walk around and decide for themselves or offer a variety of shops and ask the tourist to select which ones they want to visit.

• Cape Town events: Interest shown in Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts, Galileo Open Air Theatre, Cape Town Carnival and upcoming trade shows – We are Africa 2017 and WTM Africa 2017.

This shows that tourist want to join the locals in what they are doing. Operators and guides can get ideas of local events from many internet sites and Cape Town Tourism will also be able to help.

• Travel to the Stellenbosch Winelands is included in all itineraries as opposed to Constantia Winelands. Buyers are unaware of the Cape Town Winelands region.

Another lovely challenge to promote other wine routes and other wine farms that are not ‘so touristy’ but offer excellent wine. Guides should be looking for different experiences on wine farms for the tourists. Does the farm also offer olive oil tasting, garden tours, art galleries etc? Often the operators give the guide carte blanche as to what wine farms to choose. Guides should aim to try different farms so that the tourists have a unique experience. It also shows the tourist that they need to visit SA again as they have only seen and experienced the tip of the iceberg.

• Competing destinations: Tanzania and Botswana. These competitors offer unique, once in a lifetime bucket list experiences.

Well done to Tanzania and Botswana. Fortunately Cape Town is also usually on everyone’s bucket list. In Cape Town we can also tap into other bucket list activities such as hot air ballooning, shark cage diving, abseiling, paragliding, parachuting, swim with seals and dolphins etc.

TGI hopes this blog makes the tour operator and tourist guide excited about knowing the North American market more and how they can improve the product that they offer to bring in more tourists from this continent thus benefiting many Capetonians economically.

Written by Julie Womack November 2016