Africa’s travel industry has had a tough year. We felt the impact of Kenya’s troubles with Somalia, Air Malaysia’s air disasters and the violent unrest in Gaza and Ukraine, and then ebola combined with electioneering in the US to sucker-punch the safari industry. But Africa is nothing if not resilient, and travel will recover because this continent speaks to human beings on a level that nowhere else quite matches.
My Top 8 Africa travel trends are based on industry predictions, market developments, and insights real travellers have shared with me.
Trend #1 Breathing Space
Work stress, city smog, global recession, and information overload… It’s no surprise that the number one trend for 2015 is taking time out where there is space to breathe in the quiet beauty of nature and soak up endless views in places where personal technology fades into an afterthought.
My favourite destinations for a digital detox are places where the sky arches grandly over the landscape and you see no buildings from one far horizon to the other. For this trend, I pick the dreamscapes of Namibia or authentic and comfortable camping in Botswana.
Trend #2 Secret Gardens
As travellers become more informed about what to see and do in Africa’s top destinations, they naturally want to know about the hidden gems – the places where locals go for iconic experiences without the crowds. It’s not often I discover a new hidden gem. In 2014, my secret garden was the Congo’s exquisite rain forests and rare wildlife. 2015 is for rediscovering Zimbabwe’s natural wonders, spectacular game viewing and warm hospitality.
Trend #3 Little Luxuries
In a time-starved world where a million cares cram every minute, taking a vacation (for me) means taking a break from endless To Do lists. It’s time to enjoy life’s little luxuries: a great meal, a beautiful sunset and making memories with the people I love.
My favourite little luxury is superb food and wine, and where better to indulge than in my home town and Africa’s gourmet capital, Cape Town.
Trend #4 Authentic Encounters
This trend is about moving away from tourist traps and seeking out opportunities for genuine engagement with real people in their traditional settings. In remote corners and far flung plains, there are families still living as their ancestors did. My observation is that these ancient lifestyles are often very tough, but also show us urbanites how human beings can live in harmony with the natural world, free from the tech we consider indispensable.
This trend really speaks to me. Africa is home to some fascinating cultures, which you can encounter on your travels here.
Trend #5 Alive & Kicking
This trend is about the moments that leave us feeling changed – forever transformed – because of something we witnessed or the people we met. It is about feeling fully present and truly alive, when every sense is sharpened and, for a moment, we appreciate the beautiful details of the natural world and how perfectly we fit into it.
You’ll find plenty of transformative experiences on any travel bucket list, and Africa is home to some of best on the planet. Stretch your comfort zones with these do-before-you-die adventures or open up your horizons with my top 5 bucket list experiences for solo travellers.
Trend #6 My Story
This trend reflects a global shift away from owning things to making memories – it’s about experiences that become defining moments in an person’s life story. We share our personal stories on a very public scale, thanks to social media. It makes us more aware of what our travel choices say about us and hungrier for the kind of campfire stories we want to tell when seated around a dinner table back home.
I want to fill my story with journeys of discovery – going off the beaten track into wild Africa for good old fashioned adventures. Think far-flung tented camps and epic wildlife in destinations like Botswana and Zambia or grand adventures in classic safari style.
Trend #7 I Got This
Our generation is going to live longer than any before us, and it’s inspiring most of us to consciously take better care of our bodies. It’s making even the least coordinated of us take up active hobbies, like golf, hiking, diving or cycling. The natural travel trend is for us to take our hobby on holiday – do something we love in an exotic location, or achieve a personal goal, or learn a new sport.
Getting sporty in Africa: I highly recommend climbing Kilimanjaro (it’s not a technical climb but an incredible trek-hike-scramble) or head to Cape Town, home to a multitude of sporty activities – here’s a little adventure series I shot in 2014.
Trend #8 Value_Shift
Another evolving trend that I love is the value shift from couples-driven to family-focused travel. The dynamic nature of modern families means this shift includes several generations traveling together as well as blended families using vacations as bonding experiences. It’s also about mixed groups of friends, kids and relatives all setting out to enjoy active adventures together.
Here’s to happy travels in 2015
I’m already researching and planning my 2015 safari, plotting a journey that will give me plenty of opportunities for adventure and active relaxation. What travel dreams are you pursuing in the new year? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the trends I’m predicting. Wherever you travel, may you be safe, happy and with the ones you love.
P.S. Among other things, I’m the Creative Director of Go2Africa.com, so you’ll see that all my links go to their tour examples, destination guides and blogs because I know them well and trust them.