Lux­ury Travel: Shap­ing the fu­ture of tourism in Africa

Nomad Africa Magazine - - Inside - Words: NI­COLE LESCHINSKY

to­day, lux­ury has be­come in­tan­gi­ble. It is sub­jec­tive. Lux­ury means some­thing dif­fer­ent to each unique cus­tomer, and each cus­tomer will have dif­fer­ent views on what lux­ury travel means to them. One guest may love to have their favourite range of Her­mès bath prod­ucts in their en suite wash­room, an­other may wish for mu­sic to play via un­der­wa­ter speaker sys­tems as they swim in the pool. An­other may de­fine lux­ury as hav­ing all the time in the world to spend with their loved ones. Past def­i­ni­tions and cost can no longer be used to iden­tify lux­ury. Lux­ury is what the cus­tomer wants it to be. In Africa’s de­vel­op­ing economies, the grow­ing mid­dle class mar­kets are ex­pected to be­gin to spend on ex­pe­ri­en­tial op­tions rather than ma­te­rial items, sim­i­lar to global ma­ture mar­ket trends. To­day, lux­ury con­sumers are fo­cused on self-ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion, and ex­pect brands to con­nect with them on a per­sonal level. Therein lie op­por­tu­ni­ties for the lux­ury mar­ket to proac­tively of­fer a guest what they want, be­fore they have even asked for it.

Emily Se­gal, co-founder of K-Hole ex­plains, “We’re liv­ing in an age, where civil­ians can travel to outer space on Vir­gin Galac­tic. Where you can rent a pri­vate is­land on Airbnb for US $500 a night. It’s be­come clear that mass lux­ury is no longer a new thing, yet it cre­ates this con­tra­dic­tion: how can you of­fer ‘lux­ury’ in the tra­di­tional sense and ‘mass’ at the same time?”

To stay com­pet­i­tive, brands will need to in­tro­duce smarter ways of con­nect­ing with cus­tomers. The new era of lux­ury trav­ellers will ex­pect an ex­pe­ri­ence, when deal­ing with a brand, some­thing that makes them feel it was de­signed with them in mind. Cus­tomers do not want to feel their ex­pe­ri­ence is a ‘mass of­fer­ing,’ but rather one, which was tai­lor-made to their unique pref­er­ences. The in­dus­try will need to adapt to sur­pass cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions with a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Lux­ury travel brands will have to an­tic­i­pate and sat­isfy cus­tomers’ needs and de­sires in an orig­i­nal way be­fore the cus­tomer has even set foot on the prop­erty. At the rate the mod­ern world is evolv­ing, brands need to con­tin­u­ously push in­no­va­tion, or be left be­hind. Lux­ury ho­tels in Africa are on a par with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards of ex­cel­lence, and of­fer in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ences at some of the most ex­quis­ite set­tings on the planet, but some may fall be­hind in evolv­ing with new con­sumer be­hav­iours and pur­chas­ing pat­terns. For ex­am­ple, most lux­ury es­tab­lish­ments of­fer un­in­ter­rupted con­nec­tiv­ity. Glo­be­trot­ting con­sumers ex­pect to be con­nected to the world 24-7 and some des­ti­na­tions in re­mote spots of Africa can­not pro­vide re­li­able tech­nol­ogy. This is par­tic­u­larly notable for busi­ness trav­ellers - the big­gest mar­ket of trav­ellers glob­ally. It is of vi­tal im­por­tance to en­sure ev­ery el­e­ment of the brand is con­sis­tent along the jour­ney.

Xavier La­gardère, Head of Dis­tri­bu­tion for Lufthansa ex­plains, “The motto for first class is that you should ex­pect the ex­cep­tional. It takes a lot of con­sis­tent in­vest­ment to build that ul­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence into the prod­uct. Be­fore your travel, you will have been in touch with our ded­i­cated ser­vices, and ev­ery­thing is tai­lored to­wards your de­tails. When de­part­ing, you get to the ex­clu­sive fa­cil­i­ties of the ded­i­cated first class ter­mi­nal. You are taken to your air­craft by our chauf­feured limou­sine ser­vice. The on-the-ground time and the flight con­sti­tute a sin­gle ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Africa’s grow­ing economies sug­gests there is a huge de­mand for lux­ury ho­tels, par­tic­u­larly those cater­ing to busi­ness trav­ellers, and many global lux­ury brands have al­ready launched in com­mer­cial dis­tricts and pop­u­lar leisure ar­eas. The Carl­son Rezi­dor Ho­tel Group, which owns the brands Radis­son Blu and Park Inn, have ex­panded to 29 coun­tries in Africa. The group plans to com­plete the num­ber of ho­tels in Nige­ria to 15 by the end of 2020. De­spite Nige­ria’s econ­omy be­ing on a down­turn, it is the Carl­son Rezi­dor Ho­tel Group’s sec­ond big­gest mar­ket on the con­ti­nent after South Africa. In South Africa, the group plans to ex­pand its ho­tels from 14 to 20 dur­ing the same pe­riod. Other po­ten­tial in­vest­ment ar­eas are

In the tra­di­tional sense of the word, lux­ury has al­ways meant sta­tus, which was char­ac­terised by pos­sess­ing ma­te­rial ob­jects. As global con­sumers have be­come more af­flu­ent and are spend­ing more on lux­ury brands, masses of peo­ple have sud­denly at­tained the same things, which cre­ate a per­cep­tion of it be­ing less ex­clu­sive.

Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Mozam­bique, Rwanda, An­gola, Ghana, Uganda, Al­ge­ria and Ethiopia. The group’s aim is to have a ho­tel in com­mer­cial dis­tricts of each eco­nomic re­gion’s mar­ket to ac­com­mo­date busi­ness trav­ellers.

An­other lux­ury group con­sid­er­ing to en­ter the African mar­ket is Jumeirah, fa­mous for its luxe ho­tels in Dubai. The group is look­ing for cities that will up­hold the brand stan­dard. Hav­ing al­ready com­mit­ted to de­vel­op­ments in Egypt and Morocco, it has its sights on South Africa, Mau­ri­tius and the Sey­chelles. These three mar­kets were ranked by the World Bank for be­ing the top des­ti­na­tions in Africa in terms of com­pet­i­tive­ness in tourism and travel. Piers Schreiber, VP of pub­lic af­fairs noted, “If you look at the lux­ury five-star mar­ket - which is a niche mar­ket - you have to wait for the right ho­tel, be­cause if you make the wrong choice it’s go­ing to re­flect badly on your brand in other mar­kets.

“We won’t of­fer four-stars. It will al­ways have to be five-star lux­ury be­cause that is what our ex­ist­ing com­mu­nity of guests ex­pect. If they have come to Dubai or have gone to Lon­don, Frank­furt or Shang­hai, and had a cer­tain ex­pe­ri­ence of Jumeirah, they are go­ing to ex­pect that to be repli­cated in the dif­fer­ent mar­kets, in which we op­er­ate.” Schreiber added.

The fact that global brands such as Four Sea­sons have launched in African coun­tries is at­tract­ing other large in­vestors. Ho­tel group Mar­riott has 36 ho­tels planned for Africa, and Hil­ton, Star­wood Westin and Sher­a­ton and Man­galis all have projects in the pipe­line. Nige­ria Africa’s largest econ­omy - has the high­est growth in ho­tel in­vest­ment with 51 new ho­tel de­vel­op­ment plans, more than the en­tire pipe­line in Cen­tral Africa and East Africa com­bined. Morocco fol­lows with 31 ho­tels, then Egypt with 18 new es­tab­lish­ments. The ho­tel de­vel­op­ment pipe­line for the 49 coun­tries in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa is grow­ing much faster than the North African re­gion.

When launch­ing a lux­ury travel brand in Africa, it is vi­tal to un­der­stand the cul­ture and com­mu­nity the brand will be en­ter­ing into in or­der to po­si­tion it cor­rectly in the

We’re liv­ing in an age where civil­ians can travel to outer space on Vir­gin Galac­tic. Where you can rent a pri­vate is­land on Airbnb for US $500 a night. It’s be­come clear that mass lux­ury is no longer a new thing, yet it cre­ates this con­tra­dic­tion: how can you of­fer ‘lux­ury’ in the tra­di­tional sense and ‘mass’ at the same time?”

mar­ket. Spe­cific plat­forms aimed at con­nect­ing af­flu­ent cus­tomers to lux­ury brands are mak­ing waves and al­low­ing for rel­e­vant part­ner­ships to be formed at var­i­ous so­cial oc­ca­sions, mak­ing for per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions. One ex­am­ple is the Lux­u­ria Life­style plat­form, aim­ing at con­nect­ing the big­gest brands and af­flu­ent con­sumers in Africa’s lux­ury in­dus­try. Pa­trick Madend­jian, mar­ket­ing man­ager for the RGBC Moet Hen­nessy Group be­lieves the suc­cess of Moet Hen­nessy in the African mar­ket was by adapt­ing the brand to lo­cal mar­kets.

Madend­jian re­vealed, “We don’t im­pose in­ter­na­tional trends on a new mar­ket - we see how our prod­uct can adapt to a lo­cal mar­ket and cul­ture. We talk about African mar­kets, not Africa as a whole, as each mar­ket is unique. In South Africa, for ex­am­ple, the rel­e­vance for Hen­nessy was the con­nec­tion to the mu­sic cul­ture. The Moet Hen­nessy house is deeply rooted in his­tory, we search for ways that cus­tomers can iden­tify and in­ter­act with the brand.

“We are not in­flu­enced by mar­ket trends, these change quickly and our prod­ucts take a long time to pro­duce, there­fore we de­fine the spa­ces we want to play in. As long as con­sumers recog­nise in­ter­ac­tions are true to that brand the cus­tomer will be happy to ac­tively en­gage with it.” Madend­jian added.

Fur­ther­more, he noted that re­main­ing ex­clu­sive should not be a con­cern in the lux­ury mar­ket, re­gard­less of the in­dus­try, as all the lux­ury houses have ranges that are ex­tremely rare and ex­clu­sive. “To­day the word ‘lux­ury’ isn’t about ex­clu­siv­ity, but rather be­ing in­clu­sive – what emo­tions can you trig­ger in a con­sumer? You want to trig­ger de­sir­abil­ity and as­pi­ra­tions, help the con­sumer as­pire to a bet­ter life and have a bet­ter im­age of him/her­self. Cre­ate a brand they see them­selves as­so­ci­at­ing with, so that they want to buy into it.”

Ac­cord­ing to Amadeus, the next gen­er­a­tion of lux­ury trav­ellers from any re­gional mar­ket fall into a ‘Hi­er­ar­chy of Travel Needs,’ and can be seg­mented into three ‘tribes’ de­pend­ing on their travel pat­terns. It is a the­ory sim­i­lar to Maslow’s hi­er­ar­chy of needs, de­pict­ing the five ba­sic ‘needs’ hu­mans as­pire to ful­fil. After achiev­ing one level, we are driven to achieve the next, and so on. The more ex­posed, or ac­cus­tomed a trav­eller is to lux­ury travel, the more they will ex­pect in or­der for their needs to be ful­filled.

The trav­eller tribes are seg­mented into ‘Re­ward Hunters,’ ‘Sim­plic­ity Searchers’ and ‘Obli­ga­tion Meeters.’ Re­ward Hunters are driven by self-in­dul­gent travel, com­bin­ing self-im­prove­ment and health-fo­cused lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ences to re­ward them­selves for their achieve­ments in life. In con­trast, a Sim­plic­ity Searcher is mo­ti­vated by the most stream­lined, and ef­fi­cient travel ar­range­ments be­ing made on their be­half by trusted out­sourced in­di­vid­u­als. Fi­nally, Obli­ga­tion Meeters have a very spe­cific ob­jec­tive to their travel plans, one that is the pri­mary rea­son for their travel, but may in­clude lux­ury ac­tiv­i­ties.

Not only does lux­ury mean some­thing dif­fer­ent to each per­son, but each per­son’s per­cep­tion of lux­ury will change at any given time dur­ing their life­time. Lux­ury travel brands will need to pin-point ex­actly what is im­por­tant to their guests at an ex­act mo­ment in time. A trav­eller’s per­cep­tion may change based on their ex­pe­ri­ence with a brand at a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment, and the new era of lux­ury travel brands will need to con­stantly mon­i­tor these ex­pec­ta­tions.

The Amadeus re­port fur­ther splits fu­ture lux­ury trav­ellers into spend­ing pat­terns and vary­ing de­grees of wealth. The cat­e­gories de­ter­mine that 31% of lux­ury trav­ellers spend on ‘Blux­ury,’ 24% are ‘Cash-rich but Time-poor,’ 20% are ‘Spe­cial Oc­ca­sion’ trav­ellers, 18% are ‘Strictly Op­u­lent,’ 4% are ‘Al­ways Lux­ury’ and 3% are ‘In­de­pen­dent and af­flu­ent.’

A term coined for those com­bin­ing busi­ness travel with lux­ury leisure travel is ‘Blux­ury,’ the cat­e­gory hold­ing the largest per­cent­age of trav­ellers. A blend of Obli­ga­tion Meeters with Re­ward Hunters, this group in­cludes those in se­nior po­si­tions with the au­thor­ity to al­low for ex­tra days in their travel plans to com­plete their busi­ness ob­jec­tives and then re­ward them­selves with leisure time, usu­ally ex­tended by 24 or 48 hours. These trav­ellers will seek ex­pert ad­vice tai­lored to their in­di­vid­ual plans to make the most of their lim­ited stay wisely. Lux­ury travel brands can ben­e­fit by un­der­stand­ing this type of trav­ellers’ needs and ac­com­mo­dat­ing with last-minute book­ings, sug­ges­tions and city-tours or by ob­tain­ing ex­clu­sive tick­ets to events tak­ing place at the time. The ‘Cash-rich but Time-poor’ cat­e­gory are a blend of Obli­ga­tion Meeters and Sim­plic­ity Searchers, of­ten fit­ting travel into busy sched­ules and mak­ing last­minute plans. Flex­i­bil­ity is key for this group, who of­ten out­source travel plans

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