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COVID Safety Influences Choice of Travel Destination in Post-pandemic Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have an impact on the travel industry in sub-Saharan Africa, including the tourists’ choice of their next vacation. This is according to a new survey on consumer perceptions and behaviour towards brands conducted by African Communications Media Group (ACG) and MARCO, the Madrid-based global communications agency.

The study, conducted in the last quarter of 2022, covers Kenya, South Africa, and Ivory Coast. It was preceded by

“MARCO Research: Post-Covid Consumer Behaviour,”

carried out in April to May, covering Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, and Ivory Coast, and Britain.

The survey shows some significant differences between genders and demographics in what factors influence their choice of destination. These factors include COVID safety, a fun destination, proximity to home, rich culture, great food, and a faraway destination. Others are a new destination, destinations already visited, a destination with a spa and pampering, a sustainable destination, and a destination with a sporting event.

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Even in the post-pandemic world, COVID safety remains a key determinant of the choice of destination, with 69% of male and 74% of female respondents considering it the most important factor. A similar scenario obtains across the various age groups: 18–25 (74%), 26–40 (69%), and 40–65 (70%). COVID safety is also a major factor that influences the choice of destination among the various income brackets, with a combined average of 69% of the respondents in the high-, middle-, and lower-income brackets considering it a top priority. However, country comparisons show that both Kenya and South Africa (77% each) consider COVID safety a top priority compared to Ivory Coast (31%).

Didier Lagae, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MARCO, said:

“Our findings reveal that tourists’ destination preferences have changed significantly in the wake of the pandemic, a trend that is continuing in the post-pandemic era.”

“A significant number of tourists are avoiding destinations with more confirmed cases of COVID-19 relative to their places of origin and are embracing domestic tourism.”

According to the survey, sustainability is increasingly becoming an important factor to consider when choosing a destination. Across the three countries, 76% of the male and 71% of female respondents preferred sustainable destinations. This is also replicated across the various age groups: 18–25 (71%), 26–40 (67%), and 40–65 (63%). Sustainability also remains a key priority factor among the various income brackets, with those in the high-income bracket leading at 69%, followed by those in the medium-income bracket at 67%, and those in the low-income bracket at 60%. Again, a comparative analysis shows Kenya and South Africa leading at 85% and Ivory Coast trailing at 37%.

Linda Weaver, Chief Operations Officer, ACG-MARCO, said:

“Tourists increasingly favour destinations that adopt more sustainable practices.”

“The findings on how tourists select their holiday destinations, along with the factors determining their choices, are very important for policy making and marketing promotion in the tourism industry.”

The survey notes that most travellers prefer new destinations, with 74% of the male and female respondents considering new destinations when making their choices. However, the preference for new destinations declines the older one is, with 74% in the 18–25 age bracket, 73% in the 26–40 age bracket, and only 35% in the 40–65 age bracket giving preference to new destinations. In terms of comparative analysis among the three countries, Kenyans (79%) lead in terms of preference for new destinations, followed by South Africans (73%) and Ivorians (69%).

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A destination with a sporting event remains the preference of most Kenyan travellers (65%), with Ivorians following at 59% and South Africans at 50%. Across the three countries, men (58%) are more likely to choose a destination with a sporting event compared to women (49%). In terms of age brackets, the preference is least among those in the 18–25 age bracket (49%), but ironically high among those in the 40–65 age bracket (51%).

Great food determines the choice of destinations for most Kenyans and South Africans (83%) compared to Ivorians (64%). By gender comparison across the three countries, more women (83%) consider great food as a top priority while choosing their next vacation compared to men (77%). In terms of age brackets, the preference is highest among those in the 18–25 age bracket (83%), followed by the 26–40 (79%), and the 40–65 (73%).

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