GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - The Garden Route is a popular tourism destination because it has a lot in its favour, but to stay relevant for the future, the tourism industry in the region needs to keep evolving their offering.
That is the heartfelt advice of Monique Landman from the Netherlands, an independent customer experience consultant for the leisure and hospitality industry who helps South African companies to upgrade their customer experience. She and her husband, Arjen, have spent a lot of time in South Africa in the past 20 years and recently bought property in George.
"This country makes me happy," she told the George Herald.
Over the years she experienced tourism in the region first-hand and although she is positive, she strongly believes that the industry would benefit from adapting to rapidly changing tourist behaviour.
She says many people struggle with stress and anxiety, making it harder for them to fully immerse and relax. This leads to unrealistically high expectations for leisure. New generations of travellers want purpose and meaningful connection; they want to interact and learn. The secret, she says, is to connect to their hearts.
"Create memorable personal experiences. Help them to immerse and enjoy the Garden Route to the fullest."
Tourism is a volatile industry, easily influenced by current affairs. The Garden Route has it all, says Landman, but empathy and generosity should take the front seat. Consumers also want the convenience of easy booking and easy pay.
"Despite what many South African business owners think, European consumers are very price-conscious," she says. "I have seen the prices going up fast in the Western Cape while often the service stayed the same or even deteriorated."
People like to connect with locals. They want a sense of belonging. This can be achieved by offerings such as letting tourists help out at local charities, do workshops with local artists, or take part in beach or community clean-ups.
Europeans love to chat to local people and learn about the African life. "People may forget what you have said, but they will never forget how you made them feel."
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