Following the very successful 2010 Fifa World Cup, South Africa has become the new tourism hotspot of the world.
Many people, who were skeptical about coming to South Africa, were quite pleasantly surprised by the warmth and generosity of the African people. And what a fantastic opportunity it was for the South African tourism industry to up its service by becoming more innovative in their products, itineraries, prices and procedures.
During the month of the Fifa World Cup, it became apparent , very quickly, that the modern traveler/tourist knows what he wants and tour operators need to acknowledge this and adapt their way of doing business. It was indeed the smaller tour operators in Cape Town that first identified this change in tourist behaviour, and very quickly altered their processes to be compatible with their clients needs. An example of such an operational change is that tours are now designed with a basic itinerary framework and only after negotiating with their client do they establish the actual itinerary. In this way the tourists’ do not waste their time or money by going to places that they are not interested in, or may have already been.
As in most businesses nowadays, service, is the key selling factor , and the tourist industry is no exception.
There seems to be a general shift away from the “big bus” tours. Even though this brings down the cost and makes it cheaper , often the quality of service seems to negate these benefits. Through experience we have found that travelers are prepared to pay a bit more for convenience and more importantly, for a better service. Tours are no longer just sight-seeing drives. Today’s traveler wants to know about the region’s historical, economic, societal and future implications. A tourist guide, who cannot explain issues ranging from the natural heritage to the political situation of his country, stands to do his company a grave disservice.
Another important issue for tour operating companies to bear in mind is the global shift towards eco-friendly travel. Tourists are usually the foremost people concerned about their carbon footprint. Again, many of the smaller tour operating companies met this challenge head on, by offering cycling tours within Cape Town city. Fortunately, the development of these eco-friendly vehicles has made cycling a lot easier and pleasurable. Cycling is now effortless thanks to the multi-gears, suspensions and other ergonomic improvements to the bicycle.
In conclusion, hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup was great for the country and its tourism industry. It was an opportunity for us to show the world what we as a nation can do. I think 99% of the tourists who came here during the month of the World Cup, left with a positive image of South Africa and a yearning to come again.
But, the lessons were not only on the tourists’ side. We as a nation were exposed to having foreigners on our doorstep and in our faces 24/7, and learned that the best advertisement for the country was our own behaviour. Everyone – local and official – had to be ambassadors for South Africa and quickly adopted an acceptance of the tourists by striving to make their stay here as pleasing as possible.
The South African people now understand the value and importance of tourism and in essence, for that month, we were all tourist guides.
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