GET TO KNOW: Sabine Blehle, Chief Executive Officer, GoVacation Africa
- What do you believe has been the key change in the hospitality sector over the past five years?
Technology has started to change the industry drastically. Historically South Africa has been marketed and sold through a four-step classic distribution channel, which is being disrupted by various digital channels. In the case of hotels, and in addition to the various digital channels, there is an ever more evolving new competitor set such as Airbnb and in the case of transport this would be Uber. The distribution channels have experienced a converging of the static and dynamic channels which has an impact on pricing structures and competitiveness. Certain tourism products and services have become a commodity due to the digital transparency of the market.
2. Where do you see the three key challenges in the industry over the next five years?
- Reputation of the country: We have experienced some unfortunate media with regards to draught, crime, politics, service delivery and South Africa not being a trendy destination.
- Technology: One needs to keep up with the changes of the industry and invest accordingly
- Infrastructure: If we want to grow the industry by 5 Mill more tourists in 5 years’ time we need to have the appropriate air access and infrastructure on the ground, to deal with the growth of numbers.
3. You are a panelist at this year’s Hospitality Leadership Forum, what are you most looking forward to discussing?
The consumer of the 21st century has changed as we are not only dealing with a very well-informed traveler but also with a traveler that has a mindset of being socially and environmentally responsible and a traveler that wants to create lifetime experiences. The consumer must make a remote purchase decision and the question will be, how do we get the consumer enticed through the various channels to book South Africa as a product fulfilling the consumers needs that influence his purchase decision
4. The hospitality sector is undergoing huge change. What are the three tips you would give for success in the coming five years.
We are currently in a hybrid situation. On the one hand we need to deliver product in the traditional way to get the product into the distribution channel and at the same time we must be faster, better and more cost effective in feeding the digital channels dynamically.
The next 3 to 5 years will be an acceleration of change as the tourism industry will be completely reinvented. Any change is intimidating, and it is hugely important that we try and understand the impact of our actions
- Finding ways to get the product descriptions and differentiators to the consumer in a way that positively influences his purchase decision. The B2B channel is in our view very relevant and sustainable in our industry and can be the sales differentiator.
- Staying with the trends and value needs of the consumer as well as adapting the product offering and marketing of the product accordingly.
- We are currently still working in a hybrid of static and dynamic offerings. This will however move to a complete dynamic market within the next 3-5 years via DMC’s, OTA, OTO, Bedbanks, Google travel etc. and service providers need to make a conscious decision about
- Which channel is relevant for their product and will have a positive impact on their bottom line.
- How to diversify the distribution to not become dependent on one distribution channel.
- And last but not least how to price the product via the various channels to protect the value of the product through a rate equilibrium that ends up with the consumer, no matter the channel of choice.
5. And are there any specific areas in the (sub-Saharan) African hospitality market that you believe are unique?
Africa in itself is unique, and no other destination offers a combination of experiences ranging from Safari, Culinary and Cultural to breathtaking Landscapes, ranging from Deserts to Oceans. The one thing that however often gets mentioned, is the friendliness and openness of the people, and that creates an authenticity that is hard to beat. Any destination can build beautiful hotels and create great packages but how you are made to feel during your holiday, the sense of being welcomed, to being included, and to learn something new about exotic cultures, is something unique to Africa.
6. Which type of people do you believe would gain the most from attending your session this year?
Anybody that is tasked to foresee the development of the future as accurately as possible would benefit from this session, i.e. Sales & Marketing Teams, Yield Management and Commercial Management of product.
The panelists are of a very high profile and from various sectors of the industry and I’m sure the discussion will bring insights that allow us to broaden horizons and to see things from a different perspective.