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Festivals-reportThe recent Festivals and the Millennial Traveller report published by WYSE offers insight on festival attendance, spending and the most important elements for a festival, according to millennial travellers from across the globe. With the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) heading to Cape Town this year, WYSE spoke with South African tourism expert Prof. Melville Saayman to discuss the contribution of young people to the growing and greening festivals scene.

WYSE: You’ve been conducting economic impact studies on South African festivals for many years. What are a few key trends that you’ve identified that the youth travel industry should take note of?

SAAYMAN: Firstly, events are on the increase.  In South Africa we have seen tremendous growth in the number of festivals and events over the past 10 years.

Secondly, events and festivals have a clear focus in comparison with those 15 to 20 years back. What I mean by that is that if the focus is olives or arts, then the programme specifically deals with that type of theme whereas in the past, festival programmes were generally broader.

Thirdly, festivals and events are becoming more green.

Lastly, festivals and events in South Africa are catering for greater markets than ever before. You still have very regional events, but more of the regional events are becoming national- and even international events.

WYSE: What are the most popular types of festivals in South Africa? Do they tend to be music-focused, devoted to food and drink- or maybe film, fine arts?

SAAYMAN: First would be arts, then food and wine, followed by music.


WYSE: Do you look at the age of festival attendees in South Africa and whether they have travelled from outside of South Africa to attend these events? What percentage of festival attendees in South Africa are young people aged 16-30?

SAAYMAN: Most of our reports capture the different age groups, although we do not always analyse these groups separately. In general, I would say that young people represent 30-40% of festival attendees in South Africa.

WYSE: In your impact studies, are there any indications as to the importance of young people and the contributions that they make to the festival scene in South Africa?

SAAYMAN: Although we do not usually analyse this age group separately, considering the percentage of young people that attend and support festivals, young people surely make a huge impact. I personally think that we underestimate their value and contribution to festivals in general. One of our findings has been that young people tend to be more green than older people. For the future of festivals and events, this is an interesting and important finding, in my opinion.

Melville Saayman is Professor of Tourism Management at North-West University, Potchefstroom campus, in South Africa. He is currently the Director of the research focus area known as TREES, Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society, a leading tourism research entity in South Africa.

Professor Saayman has served as on the board of directors for a number of organisations in South Africa, including South African Tourism (SATOUR), the Institute for Hotel and Tourism Management, North West Development Corporation, and the South African National Recreation Council (SANREC). He is an Executive Committee Member of the Association of International Experts in Tourism (AIEST) and serves on the World Tourism Organization’s panel of experts. Professor Saayman has been recognised with various awards for his research achievements and commitment to the field of tourism in South Africa.

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