A challenge for the travel industry: 22% of the German population would like to meet local people on holidays in developing and newly industrialised countries. That is almost 14 million Germans aged 14 and over.
The Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung (Institute for Tourism and Development) has already shown on several occasions, through surveys, that German holidaymakers travelling to developing and newly industrialised countries (in 2008: 8.5 million aged 14 and over) want to meet local people. They do not just want to enjoy the sun, sea and attractions, they also want to find out about everyday life in the countries they are visiting. Half of the tourists believe that the only way to understand developing countries is through contact with those native to the area.
The Studienkreis has specifically examined this issue again in a recently published representative survey. Almost 8,000 German citizens were surveyed in the Reiseanalyse (travel analysis) about their interest in organised meeting offerings. This means meetings with local people "at eye level" requested by both sides on the basis of common interests (jobs, hobbies). The Studienkreis used an actual tourist offering as a guideline - the meet-the-people programme in Jamaica, which provides foreign visitors with the opportunity to meet Jamaicans. The free-of-charge programme was developed when mass tourism reached the island, and the local population wanted tourists to learn more about the country and its people.
The main objective of the new survey, which is available in German and English, is to provide tour operators in Germany and tourism managers in destinations in developing world with an indication of the size and structure of a market segment that is hardly recognized in this form, and for which few corresponding offerings are available - a segment "below the surface". As expected, the greatest interest in such meetings is among those with experience of study trips and activity holidaymakers: 43% and 34% are responsive respectively. However, 25% of beach and all-inclusive holidaymakers, who, for example, go on holiday to Turkey or Egypt, are interested in sophisticated meeting offerings.
As part of the survey, those interested in meetings were asked under what general conditions they could imagine participating in meeting offerings. The results showed that the majority (67%) would like to be accompanied by other people, be it a tour guide or interpreter (49%) or other tourists (35%). Most were also willing to contribute to the cost, and only 37% expected meeting offerings to be free-of-charge.
Using the examples of Egypt, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey, the survey describes the size and structure of "main target groups" in the German holiday market for meet-the-people offerings in the respective country.
In the opinion of Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung, the results offer encouragement to all those working towards tourism development that actively promotes intercultural meetings in developing and newly industrialised countries. Such meetings offer tourists extremely valuable travel experiences, and the opportunity to gain a better understanding of everyday life in the destination countries and of the locals, who, in turn, receive authentic insight into the culture and living conditions of their guests. Destinations and local tour operators would have the opportunity to attract new customers through meeting offerings, and to strengthen customer loyalty through special experiences resulting from intensive meetings with people from other cultures "at eye level".
Text by: Armin Vielhaber