Although the core ingredients of a great safari have remained unchanged over the years and include the quality of the location, the wildlife viewing and the guide as well as appropriate accommodation and meals, there are some new and emerging trends in the safari industry.
1. MULTI-GENERATIONAL TRAVEL
Many lodges have started adapting their offering to appeal to families with young children. Family and toddler travel has always been in demand, however, families now seek richer cultural and natural experiences that both entertain and educate.
"With the pace of life having increased dramatically due to changes in technology and other factors, leisure and travel trends have changed and adapted accordingly" says Saskia Brown, Sales & Marketing Manager to Kwandwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa. She says one of the consequences of this lifestyle change is that spending time with family has become more important than ever. "Children are no longer left at home on long-haul trips, including when going on safari. Safari destinations are also becoming more child-friendly and accommodate the needs of this growing market".
Some safari destinations are introducing educational activities such as fishing, baking and spoor tracking or special Conservation Clubs or "Kids on Safari" programmes which help the younger generation of guests to become more aware of nature, conservation, their surrounds and their own role in the future of our planet.
2. LUXURY IS BACK IN DEMAND
Despite the economic downturn of the past few years, the safari industry has witnessed an increased demand for luxury.
Chris Roche, Ecotourism and Conservation Specialist for Wilderness Safaris, says luxury safaris remain as popular as they were before the global slowdown. "It is unlikely that this trend will really change markedly in the next few years".
There has also apparently been a marked increase in demand for glamour camping.
3. THE NEED TO GIVE BACK
Experiential travel and hands-on experiences have blossomed during the past year. Travellers are increasingly looking for authentic experiences that allow them to give back to the community instead of just sitting back and observing.
There is a growing trend of product owners working with local and international charities to increase the opportunities for travellers to "give back" when they travel. Travellers wish to contribute something positive to the place they visit, and the increase in voluntourism activities meets these desires.
Clients can assist with gardening projects, teach reading, train in computer skills, and participate in arts and craft activities - providing them with the ability to enjoy the excitement and newness of a destination, as well as the ability to engage more directly with locals and their culture, and to have a meaningful experience that goes beyond a mere holiday.
Roche says the desire to give back is often translated into a quest for authenticity and credibility. Travellers question whether the company with which they have booked stayed true to its roots and vision. Travellers want to know what positive impact the lodges have on the world, the area they work in and the people they work with. They don't want to sacrifice their own comfort or experience but they do want to maximise the impact their holiday money makes. "In other words, they care where their money is going and want it to make a difference".
However, Christina Carr, Director of Norman Carr Safaris in Zambia warns: "It's important to guard against tokenism here and to ensure that if people come and volunteer that it benefits the community and is an enlightening experience for the guest. That's hard to achieve in reality and getting the balance between just making the guest feel good without actually doing any good and hassling the community is a difficult thing!"
The best thing a guest can do is simply come on safari - that supports the local economy, provides employment, is fundamental to conservation and creates opportunity.
4. A HONEYMOON "OUT OF AFRICA"
The need to escape to a remote and beautiful destination is definitely a top requirement for honeymoon couples, and a safari honeymoon offers exactly that.
Honeymooners continue to demand unique and exclusive experiences. Honeymoon accommodation choices in Africa range from romantic and intimate rural properties in remote wilderness areas to stunning tree houses in private reserves. Beyond the honeymoon suite, owners are offering special services such as rose-petal baths with champagne, private bush dinners, private bush baths, and other special romantic touches.
Spa treatments are growing in popularity as well as being an added indulgent touch for honeymooners, and there are several full-service spas at luxury properties throughout Africa.
5. DIGITIAL DETOX
The biggest trend predicted for 2014 is the need that people will have in the future for space, quiet, exclusivity, privacy and clean air. This results from our overly urban environments, high population densities and also frenetically paced lives.
People increasingly feel the need to experience nature close-up. In line with this is the need for a digital detox.
Some luxury lodges which provide access to the Internet are now encouraging guests in the quiet and remote locations of their establishments to "switch off" and enjoy the silence and surroundings.
This article has been summarised from the original which first appeared in the October 2013 edition of Tourism Update HERE.