How global traveller statistics provide the basis for destinations’ crisis communication

In May 2017 the South African government was faced with the possibility of its largest city running out of water. Water stockpiling and panic were caused when the goverment announced “day zero”, a moment when the dam levels would be so low that the taps in Cape Town would be turned off.

Residents came into action and requested water use would be restricted. Reusing shower water, limiting toilet flushing and night-time irrigation were among measures that saved the city from running dry.

Local politicians were worried about the impact the water-saving scheme might have on tourism, given its importance to the South African economy. It is intuitive that travellers concerned about water usage would stay away. The question was, however, how much tourism would be affected by the situation. South Africa’s position as a popular travel destination might be in dispute.

Follow the trends: how is tourism really impacted?

In May 2018 Cape Town Tourism, the town’s official regional tourism organisation responsible for promoting the destination, requested ForwardKeys to analyse the historic and forward-looking air travel trends. ForwardKeys carried out an independent study measuring the real impact of the water crisis. Other factors affecting tourism, such as visa regulations, the Ebola crisis and crime rise, were isolated.

Measuring the impact on travel trends

The report provided a thorough investigation of how travellers reacted to the development of the water drought. For key moments, it showed the immediate impact on bookings. It also discussed how other cities in South Africa were impacted by the decrease in travel to Cape Town, and which traveller segments held back on booking trips to Cape Town.

The analysis included not only the analysis of past performance, but also estimated the future development and potential recovery.

Making data-driven decisions

The report showed that South Africa’s performance was solid in 2017, as air travel increased throughout the year. A decline in bookings was visible starting February 2018, which is when the media attention for the water crisis started to grow. Bookings from key markets to visit Cape Town also declined.

The study included trends of the most important souce markets: Germany, the UK and the USA. Interestingly, they did not all respond the same to the development of the water drought. The same goes for different travel segments. Travelling couples, for example, were more prone to shy away from booking a trip to South Africa.

Effective crisis communication

In the case of unexpected events insights into booking patterns via global traveller statistics provide the basis for clear and timely crisis communication. As a destination marketing organisation is aware of how bookings develop, they are enabled to communicate on the crisis to inform future travellers at the right moment.

“Despite the recent water security challenge we faced, the temporary nature of this event was successfully averted through collaboration and common goodwill between citizens, government, business and tourists. Our refreshed focus on retaining our reputation as a world-class destination meant the need to do things differently and asking the right questions in order to find the right solutions. Data, insights and analytics from ForwardKeys have proven a valuable resource in reshaping our strategies in making up for lost tourism numbers. This study has proved essential in looking at the impact of natural disasters from a different perspective.”

Enver Duminy, Chief Executive Officer of Cape Town Tourism.

About the products


Actual Air Reservations

ForwardKeys daily receives air bookings made by more than 180.000 travel agencies worldwide. The data is provided by all the major global distribution systems, among which TravelPort, Amadeus, Sabre and TravelSky (Chinese bookings). The bookings include amendments and cancellations, thereby providing a clear picture of who is travelling where and when, and how bookings are impacted by (unexpected) events.



ForwardTools provides you with access to our online platform. It allows you to analyse the data by yourself 24/7. You can conduct your own search and query commands. As the data is updated daily and has segmentation options like traveller profiles and itineraries, it is the best and most effective way to stay on top of all travel developments and trends real-time.



Our tailor-made reports are delivered as an Excel document or PDF files at the frequency you request. They can either focus on the visitors a certain destination attracts (a destination report), or they can show where a certain source market is travelling (a nationality report).

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