Destination management companies – Dragonfly Africa, Tourvest Destination Management (TDM), as well as Tourvest’s leading African inbound leisure travel brand, Sense of Africa – have highlighted a rise in wellness and culinary experiences, increased spending among travellers, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in its operations.

Yolanda Woeke, VP of Sales and Marketing at Dragonfly Africa, said the company actively monitored industry publications and market reports to gain insights into emerging patterns and preferences within the travel sector.

“We also engage in networking events, conferences, and collaborations with other travel and hospitality professionals to exchange ideas and stay connected with the pulse of the industry. The company also places a strong emphasis on leveraging digital platforms and social media to track and analyse changing consumer behaviours and preferences,” Woeke said.

She added that Dragonfly Africa had also noticed shorter lead times for bookings than before, the same trend identified by Global Distribution System platforms.

Rise in wellness and culinary experiences

There has been a heightened interest in local and authentic gastronomic adventures.

“Travellers are eager to explore the unique flavours and culinary traditions of the destinations they visit. To cater for this demand, Dragonfly Africa has curated specialised food tours, cooking classes, and dining experiences that showcase the rich diversity of regional cuisines,” said Woeke.

Simultaneously, the demand for wellness activities has seen a substantial uptick.

“Travellers are increasingly prioritising activities that promote relaxation, rejuvenation, and overall wellbeing. Dragonfly Africa has responded by incorporating wellness retreats, spa packages, and mindfulness activities into our offerings. Whether it’s yoga retreats in scenic landscapes or spa treatments that integrate local healing traditions, our focus is on providing a holistic and rejuvenating travel experience,” said Woeke.

She pointed out, however, that safaris still remained popular.

“Safaris are popular due to their unique wildlife experiences, stunning natural settings, cultural interactions, and the appeal of adventure and photography opportunities, attracting a diverse range of travellers seeking memorable and immersive vacations.”

According to Suzanne Benadie, Sales and Marketing Director at Sense of Africa, South Africa, the operator had also noticed a rise in culinary tours, with a focus on food and wine pairing experiences.

“These experiences are increasingly popular and have been curated as small private group travel, also including personalised cooking experiences. Properties that can offer yoga, digital detox and healthy lifestyle options are also popular for multigenerational family bookings,” said Benadie.

Increased spending

Dragonfly Africa and Sense of Africa have observed a significant trend of increased spending amongst travellers.

“Several factors contribute to this uptick in spending. There is a growing preference amongst travellers for unique and immersive experiences, which often come with additional expenditures on personalised services, exclusive activities, and premium accommodations,” said Woeke.

Benadie added that higher spend on private excursions and higher room categories were definitely increasing.

“Travellers are still looking for fewer stops on a trip, but with longer, more immersive stays,” she said.

The use of AI

Dragonfly Africa does not currently use AI. “However, considering the dynamic nature of the travel industry and the increasing integration of technology, we may consider it in future, always bearing in mind that we want to remain authentic and deliver personalised experiences,” said Woeke.

TDM Chief Information Officer, Dieter Holle, noted that TDM was actively exploring new technology trends and has carefully started implementing opportunities that have arisen from the fast-paced developments in AI technology, specifically leveraging the commercially available Application Programming Interfaces for this purpose.

API is a set of rules and protocols that define how two software systems can communicate with each other. AI APIs allow developers to incorporate advanced AI capabilities into their applications or services by making requests to the API and receiving responses.

“We already use the technology to generate engaging itinerary summarisations on our B2B portal and the integrated itinerary builder, and we leverage large language model abilities to expand our wording derived from structured data product reviews generated by our staff whilst on educational and site inspections. Whilst we welcome the technology, we are equally aware of the risks and tightly manage the non-exposure of company confidential, sensitive, and personal information submitted to these services,” said Holle.

He added that, for the future, TDM would expand the usage of AI in areas where it could sufficiently manage risk, cost, and quality of the output.

“For mainstream process optimisation opportunities and bringing the technology closer to travel professionals to use in their daily work process there is benefit in adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, as the various tools to assist office workers, for example the Microsoft M365 Copilot features, are still at an early stage of their evolution, price proposition and roll-out.”

Holle concluded that TDM was ready to accept add-ons to itineraries either via traditional consultative, or self-service B2B portal methods.

“Entirely customised itineraries are seamlessly fulfilled via our on-the-ground expertise and capable B2B portal, with instant highly visual digital itinerary outputs in our own platform or via automated export to the widely adopted WETU itinerary software platform.”