Safari Travel Trends for 2019

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Safari Travel Trends for 2019  

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” – Richard Mullin   

In a world where skyscrapers tower above us, untouched landscapes are few and far between. In an age where people are more digitally “connected” than ever, the need to disconnect has never been greater; to turn down the noise of the world and reconnect with ourselves and nature.

The way people travel and why is constantly changing. Even the most remote destinations are adapting to the needs of the modern traveller. Yet while travel trends and predictions come and go, the eternal invitation to “switch off” and get into nature is always extended to us.

And that is why African safaris remain some of the most sought-after travel activities available today.

These African safari travel trends have something special written on the horizon:

  1. Multi-generational safaris

Have you always wanted to bring your loved ones together for an event so extraordinary, you would be able to fondly reminisce for decades to come?

Experience the beauty of Africa as a family this year. What could be more memorable than a multi-generational family trip to Africa, including your newest additions, matriarchs, patriarchs and those in between? Baines’ River Camp accommodates up to 20 guests in eight luxury safari suites and a two-bedroom family unit, equipped for your every need.

Research shows that more and more travellers are inviting their parents and children along for adventures like this one. Why not you and yours?

  1. Environmentally-conscious travel

As environmental consciousness rises around the world, more consumers are actively looking to support businesses who are doing their part to conserve energy and the environment.

We are extremely proud to be a part of the first carbon-neutral park in the world: a milestone in global conservation. A collaboration between thirteen safari lodges within and around the Lower Zambezi National Park has seen significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reforestation in that region.  

When you visit Baines’ River Camp, enjoy every moment of your adventure knowing that you are partnering with us to support environmental conservation in Africa.

  1. Tech-friendly safari travel

While most luxury safari lodges aim to give guests the most authentic bush experience possible, some little modern extras can make your vacation extra special.

Baines’ River Camp suites are equipped with air-conditioning (a life-saver in the African heat) and generator-powered electricity. A state of the art reverse osmosis plant provides the camp with fresh drinking water. While cell phone reception is intermittent, guests have access to wireless internet in the main lodge.

That said, it’s unlikely that you would want to spend too much time browsing the internet. We invite you to “go off the grid” and immerse yourself in a once in a lifetime African experience that will open your eyes to the natural wonders around you.

  1. Luxury safaris – two worlds in one

If you enjoy the finer things in life, a luxury safari offers you the best of two very different worlds: ultimate luxury living against a spellbinding backdrop of the unspoiled African bush.  

Gone are the days where a safari saw you embark on simple game drives, with stays in even simpler accommodations. Today, luxury safari lodges let you immerse yourself in everything you could dream of in a safari experience, with all the creature comforts you are accustomed to and more.  

Baines’ River Camp offers plush accommodations, breathtaking safari adventures, divine spa treatments, and sumptuous dining experiences, all under African skies.

2019 promises new levels of luxury safari travel. We can’t wait to welcome you to Baines’ River Camp to experience it all yourself. Shall we talk about your next safari? Contact us today.

About Baines’ River Camp

Baines’ River Camp is located on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia, known as “the real Africa”. A true colonial-style safari lodge, Baines’ River Camp was named after famous explorer and artist, Thomas Baines. Guests can enjoy a variety of land and water based safari activities, including canoeing, angling, bird watching, sunset cruises and more.

Whether you are looking for a memorable family vacation, an unforgettable honeymoon or a corporate getaway you will always remember, Baines’ River Camp offers you an authentic African safari experience with a difference.

 

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Rate Parity Between Online Travel Agents & Establishments | The Ins & Outs

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An item near the top of most hotelier checklists is rate parity. This is a legal agreement between hotels and online travel agents (OTAs), in which the hotel agrees to charge the same rate and terms for a specific room type regardless of its promotional channel. But is this system strictly fair?

Hoteliers and tour operators would ideally like the freedom to offer their best rates to customers who book with them directly, even while listing their services on a variety of OTAs. Yet they find themselves under restrictive pressure from various OTAs, as a result of their fine print.

Two commonly enforced rate parity categories include:

  • wide rate parity, which is a restrictive form of the agreement in which a hotel promises not to undercut the room prices which OTAs charge for their hotel; and
  • narrow rate parity, which has arisen after interventions from European regulators, allowing hotels to lower their direct rates if guests email, call in or join their loyalty programmes, but not publicly via their own website.

In essence, hotels can reap higher earnings from return clientele if they secure more bookings without the OTA commission; at the same time, OTAs occupy an important industry niche because they reach new consumers that a hotel website may not and also offer valuable comparisons.

Because healthy levels of direct bookings are essential to ensure fair play and to offer improved guest experiences, many hoteliers are asking: “How can I incentivise direct bookings for interested potential guests?” A few clever ideas include:

  • offering complimentary items to those who book directly, from free WiFi to on-the-house breakfasts/drinks/shuttle services;
  • offering lower rates via customer loyalty programmes or email marketing campaigns; and/or
  • listing certain room types or specials exclusively on the hotel’s website.

Currently, the global hospitality landscape shows a mishmash of regulated and unregulated regions and behaviours – with all forms of rate parity being prohibited in some European Union (EU) countries; where rate-parity clauses only relate to certain OTAs in others; and where the USA and Latin America remain largely unregulated.

In South Africa, industry members debated the matter at a recent South African Tourism Services Association (Satsa) Conference – concluding that although the traveller should be able to find rate parity across channels, a dynamic rate system was needed in the future, with a quarterly review of pricing rather than fixed annual rates being a possible solution.

Jeff Rosenberg, Cape Chairman of FEDHASA, which is the national trade association for South Africa’s hospitality industry, is of the opinion that rate parity is only constructive if it is based on a narrow agreement that applies to just website parity. Additionally, the parity has to be reciprocal because, then, the hotel maintains control of its pricing decisions; and the OTA can’t use their commission as a tool to discount the rate and undermine the pricing strategy – thereby affecting a channel shift. “The OTA commission remunerates them for their reach, where the hotels brand.com does not have a presence. Therefore, it acts purely as an extension of the sales arm of the business. In essence, the OTA is just a sell-on channel,” advises Rosenberg. “What a significant number of hotels are failing to do is to negotiate the protection of their brand names with the OTAs. This is absolutely essential in ensuring OTAs cannot bid against them for the relevant brand name during search engine optimisation, i.e. basically buying the ranking rights to their own website.”

Further afield, in the international arena, the Direct Booking Summit has been gaining traction – in Amsterdam on 27 to 28 June 2018; Dallas on 3 and 4 October 2018; and in Singapore from 27 to 28 Feb next year.

The Summit’s goal is to build momentum for the shift to direct bookings, by facilitating a conversation between hoteliers and sharing best industry tactics. The message from the Direct Booking Summit chairman, Charlie Osmond, is: “We started the conference a few years ago to help hotels who really care about improving the guest experience on their website, and who want to drive more direct bookings… There are two keys things we want to do: the first is to build a community of hoteliers who come back each year because they want to share their struggles, their challenges and also their wins when it comes to driving direct bookings. Another one is the content. We’re really focused on delivering practical take-home tips. [So] what strategies are hotels using to put different rates and packages on their direct channel versus on the OTAs; in what ways are hotels combining their loyalty efforts, their CRM efforts and their direct-booking strategies to make both better; and, finally, [we’ll explore] the personalisation we’re beginning to see much more of on hotel websites, reflecting a broader online retail trend.”

Legal background

In recent news, Tourism Accommodation Australia says the country’s Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) is investigating the fraught relationship between accommodation providers and booking platforms. This comes after moves in the UK, in late 2017, to clamp down on OTA claims that the UK’s own Competition and Markets Authority said were creating a false impression. The Australian inquiry will examine hidden charges, search results and discount claims, which operators found to mislead consumers facing possible court action.

Last year, the ACCC took a Swiss booking engine to court over breaches relating to the reselling of concert tickets, with claims of “less than one percent of tickets remaining” creating a false sense of urgency to buy on one channel, when tickets were still available for purchase on others. Booking sites that use phrases like “one room left”, “ten people are viewing this page” and “in high demand” could find themselves in a similar amount of trouble if they are unable to substantiate these claims.

Contact Suiteres PTY Ltd in southern Africa if you would like further advice on rate parity or if you would like assistance with devising an effective rate strategy for your accommodation establishment.

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Is Airbnb a positive or negative disruptor in the South African hospitality industry?

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Is Airbnb a positive or negative disruptor in the South African hospitality industry?

The answer to this question depends entirely on whether you are asking visitors or hosts of Airbnb, or owners and employees of the big hotel groups.

In 2008, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia moved from New York to San Francisco. Neither of them had a job and were unsure of how to pay their rent. At the time, there was a Design conference on in town and the pair noticed that all the hotels in the area were fully booked. To make some cash, they bought three airbeds and advertised, quite literally, a bed and some breakfast for $80. They had three takers, and an idea was born.

“You can’t reinvent the wheel” is the most common trope offered by the sceptics in the early days of the disruptive start-up. Many of them agreed that little money and no hospitality experience was an almost-certain recipe for failure.

But Chesky and Gebbia didn’t reinvent the wheel, they just created additional wheels to satisfy the growing demand. The big hotel groups however, disagree.

Airbnb isn’t the first new accommodation concept to disrupt the hospitality industry. Prior to World War II, a hotel stay was a luxury experience reserved for the wealthy and elite. After the war, chain hotels like Holiday Inn, which launched in the late 1950’s, were the initial disruptors, offering rudimentary, cheap accommodation to break the journeys of ordinary citizens when long interstate highways were built. After that, it was timeshare that became the next disruptor that gave regular people a place to holiday without the inflated seasonal rates of local hotels which were often fully booked.

It was only a matter of time before the digital age redeveloped an old model to meet a growing need of 21st century travellers.

Airbnb now has over 4 billion listings in over 191 countries, including South Africa, and is still growing exponentially. Naturally, this has had a negative effect on the hotel industry and has elicited several actions.

In May 2017, Traveller24 published an article outlining regulations being flouted by Airbnb hosts, such as offering bottles of wine to guests. The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, or FEDHASA admit that Airbnb is good for tourism, but only if they adhere to the same regulations imposed on the traditional members of the hospitality industry.

“The issue of regulation continues to be in the focus for the successful share-economy online platform and its hosts who are able to rent space in their homes to guests for short-term stays – with Airbnb taking the hospitality industry by storm since its inception back in 2008, just short of a decade ago.

But now Fedhasa says compliance from the online hospitality platform needs to be addressed urgently to “safeguard the tourism sector””. 

Innovator or disruptor?

Airbnb have positively influenced the hospitality industry by absorbing an unserved need, and essentially throwing open the pool of accommodation options and prices, something the hotel industry previously had a monopoly on. Despite Marriot Hotels acquisition of Protea group in 2014, and essentially doubling its rooms, Airbnb still has the advantage of offering a variety of option in lower prices, especially during high season in popular tourist destinations when hotel prices soar with demand. That’s not to say that an apartment in Green Point or Sandton isn’t going to cost a small fortune, only that it may cost less than a room in a nearby hotel.

Big hotels are refusing to back down and are only intensifying the demand for stricter regulations on Airbnb. But the power of positive disruption lies with consumers who embrace innovation.

Rewards programmes like the one offered by Marriot, have drastically increased visitor numbers and are keeping loyal customers coming back. Instead of fighting against the competition brought about by Airbnb, hotels need to embrace the changing needs of consumers and assert themselves back into industry by offering consumers exactly what they are asking for and getting from Airbnb, more variety, convenience, and affordability.

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Maximizing The Number Of Bookings From Your Booking Engine

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Any accommodation establishment worth its salt will know the value of overcoming customer friction related to online bookings. Here are a few pointers to make sure they don’t abandon ship halfway.

The research reveals that if hospitality organisations want loyalty from their guests, they should examine their customer experience in a holistic way so as to provide a streamlined booking experience for them.

A pertinent survey by SaleCycle, a company that strives to increase conversion rates, recover abandoned sales and drive customer loyalty, of 1 000 online consumers, focused on the reasons why so many consumers – up to 81% of people attempting an online travel booking – abandon it in the final phases.

For busy hoteliers, the following bulleted list employing the SaleCycle figures is designed to assist hoteliers in what changes they may need to make to avoid being a part of this statistic.

Why do users abandon their booking?
• 39% wanted to look around more;

  • 37% were price sensitive and hoped to find a better deal elsewhere;
  • 21% wanted to chat to their travel companions before pressing the “pay” button;
  • 13% found the process too taxing;
  • 9% experienced a technical problem such as a lost connection; and
  • 7% were not able to pay using their chosen method.

Next up, the places where bookings get abandoned are:

  • when the total price is shown;
  • when personal details are requested; or
  • when potential customers are required to enter their payment details.

Robert Nienaber, managing director of Suiteres, a start-up that offers a unique integrated digital marketing strategy to hoteliers, says that booking engines must work on both desktop and mobile devices if hoteliers wish to ensure optimal conversion rates. Other tips from his many years in online marketing for the hospitality industry include: ensuring that the booking process is as easy as possible, with the least possible number of steps; that guests are permitted to book and only then get contacted by the reservations team for payment; and that users of specific booking engines are incentivised by being offered a discount, via a unique code, during the booking process.

He says: ‘One of our partners, for example, the Hotels Network, offers software that addresses many of these challenges. Their price comparison widget puts users’ minds at ease that they are getting the best price, while deploying their reviews widget reassures users about the quality of the establishment at which they are booking. Additionally, employing their software makes it easier for returning guests, as their last search will be remembered via the company’s retargeting software.’

A last point from Nienaber: ‘Ensure that your loyalty system plugs into your booking engine. And then inform the user that they will only receive their loyalty club points if they book directly via your booking engine. If they book via an online travel agent, for example, no loyalty points will apply.’

While every customer is unique, certain trends are evident in abandoned bookings which can certainly prove helpful to hoteliers if they note these and ensure that the booking process provided by their own channels is as seamless as possible. The SaleCycle survey notes that up to 33% of potential travellers would resume their booking on the same day if the accommodation provider reconnected with them.

According to a Harvard Business Review article ‘The Truth About Customer Experience’, there’s a notable correlation between, on the one hand, removing friction points in the booking process and, on the other, experiencing financial growth. Smoothing the path to purchase ensures more effective conversion of prospects to customers; it also creates greater customer retention.

Customers on a frictionless path are likely to become advocates for a venue’s brand through social media and word of mouth, and their enhanced loyalty is sure to lead to higher profits for the establishment overall.

For more on the Hotels Network and the software they offer, go to https://www.thehotelsnetwork.com.

To connect with Suiteres for a complete integrated digital marketing strategy for your hotel, email info@suiteres.com.

Author: Vanessa Rogers.

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