Learn more about UK travellers’ expectations

  • 10 March 2015 | Christine Marot
Wildlife viewing is a much-anticipated activity among UK travellers to South Africa. Image South African Tourism

The United Kingdom has the fifth-highest per capita income in the world, and two-thirds of the population go on vacation, with nearly 40% of these travelling abroad, according to www.fairtrade.travel.

Fairtrade also reveals that most British holidaymakers are aged 35-60, and their travel habits indicate that more than 60% are likely to stay for more than seven days. 

At 70-million trips per annum, the UK represents the world’s second-largest outbound market after Germany, and the second-largest long-haul market after the United States. 

Given these statistics, it comes as no surprise that the UK represents South Africa’s largest overseas market, with almost 440 000 arrivals in 2012, representing a 4.2% increase over 2011. The British are also the largest contributors to the South African tourism industry.

Around 90% of UK visitors are looking for a leisure-filled holiday, while the balance are mostly visiting relatives and friends.

Cultural village tours also rank high on the agenda. Image South African Tourism

First-time British travellers to South Africa will find a lot that’s different about the country, yet there are many vestiges of colonialism that remain. South Africans are just as fond of a “chinwag” over a “good cuppa”, and will be delighted to introduce our own brand of homegrown tea – “rooibos”.

Tea-drinking aside, the two most common activities on a British traveller’s agenda are visiting South Africa’s natural attractions, and experiencing the country’s wildlife.

Think game reserves, nature reserves, Big 5 destinations, safari packages, World Heritage Sites, national parks, scenic routes and trails, camping, 4x4 outings, game viewing, birding and similar boutique destinations.

Enjoying the beach follows closely, with visitors keen to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

When planning an itinerary based on a beach visit, look at added value for visitors: the Two Oceans Aquarium, a boat trip to Gansbaai, a visit to Boulders Beach and an opportunity to sample fresh Cape seafood. The Durban equivalent might include a visit to uShaka Sea World, a meal at Moyo on the Pier and a Segway tour along the beachfront promenade, for example.

Cultural experiences also hold great fascination for British travellers, and South Africa has much to share about our multi-cultural heritage.

Cultural villages are found in virtually every province of South Africa; places where visitors have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the lives and culture of the Zulu, Ndebele, Xhosa, seTswana and many other ethnic groups. From Phezulu in the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal to the !Khwa ttu San Cultural and Educational Centre on the Cape West Coast, take time to introduce your visitors to cultures vastly different from their own.

Even the humble township tour has evolved over the years to include options such as a bicycle tour of Alexandra or a Street Scene Township Tour in Durban, or sampling an Indian-style bunny chow or the delight of shisanyama in its original township context.

Battlefields tours hold great appeal to British visitors. Image courtesy of Zambog

British visitors with an interest in history have much to consider on a visit to South Africa. Given the country’s strong colonial ties, dating back to the late 1700s in the Cape, the Anglo-Boer War and innumerable clashes between Boer and Brit as the settlers moved into the hinterland, hundreds of monuments, museums and towns bear witness.

The Battlefields Route in KwaZulu-Natal is a must-do for its re-creation by knowledgeable guides of the Anglo-Zulu War and famous battles such as Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana, while North West province does the same for the famous Siege of Mafeking, which took place during the Anglo-Boer War.

An emerging trend among UK travellers is the older generation’s equivalent of the youngsters’ “gap year”. Known as “adult gaps”, these trips are undertaken by empty-nesters and adults taking mid-career sabbaticals. For this particular market, it’s worth considering voluntourism options.

As Supereps International puts it in its online journal article The UK market is important – ignore it at your peril, “Whichever major international destination you look at, you will find that the UK is a significant contributor to its earnings from tourism, both leisure- and business-related.”