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How to market to FIT's


Understanding the booking behaviour of FIT's

FIT = Foreign Independent Tourist or Self-drive traveller 

While still at home, MAX our FIT-SELF-DRIVE TRAVELLER considers his options on where to go for his next holiday.

Which destination will it be this time? South Africa or Tanzania? Or maybe Australia or New Zealand? Or rather the well deserved beach holiday in the Caribbean?

MAX listens to family, friends and work colleagues; he watches some travel TV shows and perhaps browses the internet for information on what to do and see at each of his possible choices. In the end, he made up his mind! He wants to do some outdoor activities, see Table Mountain and other exciting landscapes, discover a foreign culture and most of all he wants to see elephants in their natural habitat - so the decision is made to explore South Africa.

MAX has put in leave at his workplace and is able to book his flight and rental car online. He now has the date of arrival and date of departure in South Africa and starts to plan his trip in more detail by browsing a variety of online travel portals.

MAX decides that he wants to book accommodation for the first two nights in Cape Town and chooses a place which is in easy driving distance from the airport so he can check in early and refresh himself before going out to discover the city. Of course he uses the internet to find a place in Cape Town which suits his requirements and most of all - his budget! From a colleague he learned that there are elephants at Addo National Park and so he decides that this national park will be his point of return back to Cape Town after driving East. MAX goes online and researches the Addo National Park and decides to book two nights in the middle of his holiday just to make sure he can fulfil his dream of coming up close to elephants and other African wildlife. He now looks towards the end of his holiday and decides that another night in Cape Town wouldn't be so bad either and decides to book accommodation for his last night to prevent any last minute problems before returning home.

MAX loves the outdoors, adventure and his freedom - so he decides NOT to book any other accommodation upfront to stay flexible. He plans to leave Cape Town after the first two nights in direction of the Cape Winelands where he wants to visit some wine farms and taste different wines. From there he drives along the Route 62 into the Little Karoo and to Oudtshoorn where he likes to see ostriches and get some fun when squeezing through devils letterbox in the Cango Caves as he was told by some distant cousin of his!

MAX loves the ocean - so he drives from Oudtshoorn down to Mossel Bay to get a bit of adrenalin into his system with White Shark cage diving and finally driving along the Garden Route to Addo. While driving along the Garden Route he looks out for a town he likes to stay over on his way back but can't make up his mind on choosing Sedgefield, Knysna or Plettenberg Bay but he is not bothered by that as he will take it as it comes.

MAX thoroughly enjoyed his time at Addo and has heard that there is good surfing in J'Bay and decides to swing in for a surfing lesson before driving to Stormsriver where he plans to go Zip-Lining and perhaps visiting the suspension bridges of the Tsitsikamma National Park. On his way up to Addo he already stopped at the Bloukrans Bungi Jumping site but decided to tackle this adventure on his way back. Now it is the time to get his blood boiling and facing his fears while jumping of a 212 metre high bridge.

MAX drives on after this exhilarating adventure and spots the beautiful beaches of Plettenberg Bay. He read online about Plettenberg Bay, the Robberg Nature Reserve and the great beaches, so he decides to stay for a bit of relaxation. Soon he discovers that there are so many other things to do in Plettenberg Bay and the fun-filled evening in the local pub are just too good to be true and he decides to stay for another day or two.

Finally, he needs to get back to Cape Town and decides to do the highway thing - driving long distance in a short time so he can spend some more time there. MAX is boarding his plane for returning home but he is a little sad about it as he had such a great time in South Africa. Of course there were a few unpleasantries, like that one guesthouse who had mould growing all over the bathroom and a really terrible mattress - but because he didn't book in advance he had the freedom to move on the next morning. This way it was just one spoilt night instead of a spoilt holiday and he decided right then to return to South Africa for more adventures!

I know what you are thinking -- "MAX is just one kind of traveller - a young adventure traveller wanting to have fun and staying in backpacker hostels". And you are right - MAX is the typical Millennial or Generation Z and around 25 years old who wants to have an adventure! 

Now let's exchange MAX for ILSE & WERNER

ILSE is a 30 year old professional and plans to visit South Africa with her partner WERNER, a 32 year old professional.

Together they are earning good money which they like to spend on travel before settling down and having kids. Today they are discussing where to go for their next holiday.

Do you think there will be a difference in their general approach?

  • ILSE & WERNER still listen to their peers for inspiration and advice
  • ILSE & WERNER still book only accommodation for the milestones (arrival, departure and important visits such as a national park) of their trip
  • ILSE & WERNER still want to have fun and experience African wildlife, different cultures and discover new shores
  • ILSE & WERNER still use the internet for their holiday preparations
  • ILSE & WERNER still do not book every single night - because they want to be flexible and able to stay on if they like where they are and move on if they don't like it (that might be a town, an area or a specific accommodation establishment).


  • ILSE & WERNER do look up their route in more detail and consider different towns where they could stay over
  • ILSE & WERNER do look up different accommodation establishments in the respective towns just to get a feeling of what is available
  • ILSE & WERNER do make notes of different accommodation establishments to contact them whilst travelling
  • ILSE & WERNER have a different budget as MAX our adventure traveller and choose therefore higher priced accommodation establishments for more comfort

Should we look at Family MUELLER?

FAMILY MUELLER is MIKE & SONJA, a married couple with 2 children aged 7 and 9.

Trust me, it's all the same as above BUT

  • FAMILY MUELLER does plan their tour in great detail
  • FAMILY MUELLER does comprehensive research for places to stay
  • FAMILY MUELLER requires family rooms / units to a competitive rate (kids cost money - right?)
  • FAMILY MUELLER does book nearly all accommodation upfront to ensure a safe journey with their children
  • FAMILY MUELLER needs to ensure that the accommodation booked is of their standard so they look for trust indicators (on the establishment's website) and check out reviews (mainly via Trip Advisor)

I know, there is still one kind of tourist missing!

The Baby Boomer Generation and Golden Oldie

Right, you guessed it - PETER & ELFI using the internet for their planning and travel with smart phone and tablet and they are in all respect the same as all the others above BUT

  • PETER & ELFI do plan a more relaxing holiday instead of wild adventures
  • PETER & ELFI do book some of their accommodation but not all as they still want to be flexible to some degree
  • PETER & ELFI do extensive research on their tour and especially on available accommodation, which they might book on short notice, perhaps only a day or two in advance while already travelling
  • PETER & ELFI do have a liberal budget to spend
  • PETER & ELFI do appreciate comfort and love well appointed accommodation
  • PETER & ELFI do like the finer things in life
  • PETER & ELFI do like to meet people and make new acquaintances
  • PETER & ELFI don't like any kind of nonsense


As we can see, all our FIT's love to be flexible during their travels and that is the single most reason why they do NOT book all of their accommodation upfront. These are also the travellers who least visit accommodation booking portals and why should they - they don't even know where they want to stay most of the time!

If an accommodation establishment only relies on such accommodation booking portals with their marketing, they ignore one of the strongest South African tourist segments and lose out on direct bookings which are high revenue contributors. We are not saying that an accommodation establishment should not use them, on the contrary, but if they focus all their marketing efforts in paying "commission only", they contribute directly to the demise of the travel destination in many different ways.

Remember, a worldwide booking portal does not care if the travellers visit Thailand, the Caribbean or our stunning destinations in Africa - they just want the traveller to book with them!

So, how should you structure your marketing? 

Well, this will be answered in our article about booking portals and sustainable destination development

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