There's an element of tunnel vision that can come with maintaining a fairly ordinary existence. It’s difficult to place yourself in someone else’s position, especially when that someone is, by all accounts, incredibly wealthy. While many of us scrimp and save to enjoy a well-earned holiday, for others, luxury travel is part of their lifestyle. The benefit of this to us as locals in South Africa is that this form of niche tourism contributes to sustainability in the tourism and hospitality sector.
Cape Town, for example, is a second home to the wealthy, with more than 1 500 multimillionaires (classified as those with personal wealth in excess of $10million, or about R130million) living in the city during peak holiday months. While the city faces the internal challenge of development, there’s no doubt that this influx of the super-wealthy is adding to the region’s economy.
A city of contrasts
Property, financial services, retail and tourism all contribute to the city's coffers, providing extensive employment opportunities and room for growth. When analysing the contribution made by the cash injection administered by luxury travel, one insight gained is that tourism is not a single-faceted gem, but rather a series of diamond-encrusted dominoes toppling throughout entire communities. The revenue generated allows for construction and development projects and for infrastructural improvements.
What most of us would consider luxury is comparatively simple - an exclusive suite in a five-star property and a bottle of French bubbly, but luxury tourism encompasses much more than that. It can mean everything from international retail adventures to private jets ferrying couples to discreet hideaways. Helicopters, polo ponies, fine dining and sports cars - all of these translate to luxurious experiences.
Luxury tourism is thriving, with the city offering the kinds of upmarket experiences the luxury traveller seeks, besides the world-renowned landmarks of Table Mountain, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront and Cape Point, upmarket restaurants and luxury excursions.
The AfrAsia and New World Wealth Review figures quoted above don't differentiate between business and leisure travel, so luxury travel isn’t always about enjoying down time. It may include some large business deals that will also contribute to the economy, providing more jobs for locals. Ease of travel is what enables these deals to take place, so the facilities must exist to accommodate the lifestyles to which high-flying executives are accustomed.
Behind the scenes in hospitality you’ll find an astonishing number of CSI projects taking place, with hotels, tour companies and other tourism operations ensuring that the benefits are paid forward throughout communities. The income enjoyed by luxury tourism operators is being poured back into skills development, community upliftment and other projects.
Organisations such as Wesgro are tapping into the possibilities that exist, developing air access and facilitating trade deals, all with a view to increasing the potential that comes from investment. International investors won’t just sign away a fortune without visiting the destination where projects will take place, large delegations are travelling to ensure that everything is in place before deals get signed.
The bread and butter of tourism remains in encouraging domestic and international business and leisure travel, both for fun and commercial reasons. It’s imperative that tourism operators work towards ensuring that this takes place. For every penthouse suite there are a hundred rooms that exist to ensure that all tastes and budgets are accommodated, and no hotel worth its salt would ignore the fruits of providing every guest with a personalised visitor experience.
The point is, you can explore a destination and get as much out of it as your budget allows, whether your budget is limitless or carefully tailored. The fabulously wealthy can be adventurers as much as the student with his backpack.
Tourism remains an aspirational activity, to see the world and all that’s in it is a privilege to all, and there’s no price tag on the value of discovering the world.
With any niche market, there are opportunities for enterprising individuals to tap into gaps, so perhaps you, too, could provide an experience that provides a luxurious take on travel within South Africa. The market is there, but is it being accommodated to the fullest?
With the exchange rate bobbing and weaving, we’re also reaching a market that seeks what’s known as affordable luxury - the middle-class international traveller can enjoy a travel experience that’s way beyond what they’d be able to afford in their own country, and that appeal is contributing to growth in tourism.
Your holiday may not involve shopping for diamonds or hanging out on a super yacht, but it should always leave you feeling special.
* Review from AfrAsia and New World Wealth
Danny Bryer is the Area Director of Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management, Protea Hotels by Marriott