South Africa’s tourism and hospitality industries were brought to their knees by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions. Business tourism, which South Africa has long been considered a global leader, was one of the sectors hardest hit.
As a result of the pandemic most businesses put a stop to most travel for business purposes. This includes client meetings, conferences, exhibitions, trade fairs and company retreats. Videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet also grew in popularity and seemingly eliminated the need for travel.
While there is little doubt that business tourism will look different post the pandemic, experts believe we can expect a return to some old ways of doing business. Business Partners’ Anton Roelofse commented that he expects competition for business contracts, especially among SMEs, to drive business travel up again in the new normal.
As the tourism sector continues to recover, we look at this trend and others creating opportunities in the business tourism sector that tourism entrepreneurs can take advantage of.
The pandemic forced many companies to make the shift to remote work. While this has some benefits such as greater flexibility, there is little doubt that it eroded company culture. Many workers report feeling increasingly less connected to their work.
Efforts by companies to rebuild culture across remote workplaces has resulted in internal travel or intra-company travel becoming more popular. Unlike external business trips where employees travel for engagements outside the company such as clients, suppliers or conferences, internal travel refers to trips taken for intra company activities. This includes training, orientations and team building events.
Now more than ever, businesses have to pitch for their lives for business. For SMEs, networking has always been invaluable in finding customers, potential partners and suppliers.
Business travel may soon become non-negotiable for SMEs who are competing for business contracts from clients who may still value face-to-face meetings. SME owners have the same incentive to travel to attend trade fairs and exhibitions. Events such as these have traditionally been spaces for businesses to raise awareness of their brands and get high quality leads.
Tourism operators should target this market, advises Roelfse.
“Guest houses and travel-related services would therefore do well to target SME owners, who are bound to hit the road before big corporate travellers.”
First we had the digital nomad who is someone who permanently works online from any locale. The latest work trend made, popular by the pandemic, is the bleisure traveller.
Bleisure travel is a growing market and combines both elements of business and leisure. How it works in practice is business travellers extend their business trip for leisure purposes such as sightseeing at their destination. With more people working remotely, employees can even bring their families and friends along.
The benefits of bleisure for employees, according to a Fortune article, is greater job satisfaction and increased productivity.
Local tourism establishments also stand to benefit. The bleisure traveller is willing to stay longer at an area and spends more. For tourism businesses, there are opportunities to target this traveller with customised offerings
Related: Tourism Trends for 2021