Nelson Mandela Foundation

September was National Tourism month in South Africa. Tourism is one of South Africa’s biggest economic injectors with travellers from around the world coming to see South Africa’s wildlife, natural beauty and culture.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation has been welcoming the public and tourists since 2014 and offers two exhibition spaces to the public. The first is the permanent exhibition on the life and times of Nelson Mandela. The other is a temporary exhibition space that features exhibitions that speak to the mandate of the Foundation.

In recent years, the pandemic has had an impact on tourism in the country and a shift has occurred to accommodate the changing environment. Cultural and heritage tourism industries have had to find ways of presenting their products to tourists physically and digitally. As a tourist destination, the Foundation also had to learn to market itself internationally to draw more visitors interested in the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation, tourist destinations will need new ways of working to thrive in this new context. The Nelson Mandela Foundation is partly a museum and has become one of the most sought-after attractions in Johannesburg. We have had to evolve to compete in this new context.

Some of the considerations we have had to make to compete in this new environment include the following:

1. Diversity: the same but different

‘The diversity traveller’ — people with needs beyond the nuclear couple or family, such as single women travelling alone, single-parent families, people of colour, the LGBTQ+ market and people with disabilities. ‘Diversity is part of the tourism eco-system. Tourism needs to develop products and marketing material that reflects the diversity in the world.

2. Accessibility will be a game changer for tourism

Accessibility is the ongoing endeavour to ensure tourist destinations, products, and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical or intellectual limitations, disabilities, or age. Ensuring accessibility for tourists with specific access requirements could be a ‘game changer’ for destinations around the world, including Africa. Tourism environments and services will need to be designed with different access requirements in mind.

3. Luxury is no longer about money; it is about time and wellness

The pandemic has enlightened us on how short and unpredictable life is. Travellers today want meaningful experiences, bucket-list destinations and itineraries, as well as exclusive escapes.

4. Travel Bubbles: Group travel of a different kind

‘Travel bubbles’ are here to stay with a marked increase in demand for multigenerational trips. Africa is ideally positioned to tap into this exciting trend. “In a ‘travel bubble’, a set of countries agree to open their borders to each other but keep borders to all other countries closed. So people can move freely within the bubble, but cannot enter from the outside,” says Per Block, an Oxford University researcher in social mobility and methodology.

5. From over-tourism to impact tourism

Over-tourism was a major concern prior to the pandemic, and destinations don’t want to return to it. The world is moving towards everything that is sustainable with the least impact on the environment. We foresee restorative safaris that make a positive impact on conservation and communities becoming more popular.

6. Slow tourism is coming of age

Slow tourism is when people take longer trips with fewer stops. African operators have seen more demand for longer stays with simpler, less multi-country itineraries.

7. Flexcation, bleisure, workcation − the workforce of tomorrow

Remote working has created a brand-new market for tourism. Employees want more flexibility in the workplace with a focus on work-life balance. This new trend is creating incredible opportunities for destinations in Africa.

Before people went on a work trip and added a few days for themselves - this is called bleisure. Today, people choose their destination and decide to work from there - a workcation.

Tech and human connection go hand-in-hand

The pandemic has accelerated our adoption of technology. Everything is online so we use technology to plan our lives and this includes travel.

As tourism destinations, we need to keep evolving not only to compete with other tourist destinations but also to continually grow our capacity to meet the needs of different kinds of people.