South Africans still 'eager' to travel despite coronavirus concerns

2020-03-09 04:45 - Compiled by Marisa Crous
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Aerial view of Mauritius island panorama and famou

Aerial view of Mauritius island panorama and famous Le Morne Brabant mountain, beautiful blue lagoon and underwater waterfall

The travel industry has taken a hit of gargantuan proportions ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic. Fears are running high, and people are cancelling their trips. No one want to be in an airport during a time like this.

However, Flight Centre has revealed it recently issued travel quotes to the value of R140 million in just one weekend, proving that South Africans are eager to travel despite the weak exchange rate and coronavirus concerns.

Over 100 000 travellers participated in the recent Flight Centre Travel Group’s pop-up Travel Expo.

“South Africans are incredibly resilient and continue to look for bargain travel deals,” said Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa MD, Andrew Stark. “The weekend’s Travel Expo showed us that there’s still a massive appetite among South Africans to travel, especially if they can get a good deal.”

While the vast majority (80%) of flight bookings made during the Travel Expo were international travel bookings, domestic travel bookings showed the strongest growth. Local flight bookings were up by over 130% from the previous year, while overall domestic travel bookings showed an increase of over 50%.

“South Africa came up head and shoulders above all international destinations both in terms of packages and flights sold, with Cape Town in top spot, followed by Johannesburg and Durban,” said Stark.   

African travel and Indian Ocean Islands remain popular

Flight Centre's top-selling destinations for flight bookings following South Africa, were the UK, Mauritius, Australia and New Zealand. Top selling packages were Mauritius, Zanzibar, Victoria Falls and Bali.

Other popular international destinations this year were Greece, Canada and Turkey. Bookings to Greece increased by over 60% while Canada showed over 110% growth. Turkey holiday sales were up by over 50%. 

Although sales for Mauritius declined compared to the previous year, the island remains a popular destination for South Africans. 

“Our best-selling products were Sun Resorts properties [in Mauritius] i.e. Long Beach, Sugar Beach, Ambre and La Pirogue as well as the Veranda properties,” reported Ramesh Jeenarain, Managing Director World Leisure Holidays.

“This year’s Flight Centre Travel Expo was again a success for Beachcomber,” said Joanne Visagie, Sales and Marketing Director Beachcomber SA. “Bookings came in from all corners of the country. Victoria Beachcomber Resort & Spa reported the most bookings. The Expo was well organised by Flight Centre; and provided a great awareness platform that boosted sales.”

Cruising and touring

Although Indonesia and Thailand are usually top sellers for Flight Centre, these destinations were outperformed by cruising and touring this year.

Especially cruising proved popular with cruise sales seeing an increase of 30%. 

“One of our feature offers was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime deal on a bucket list travel dream to see the northern lights in Norway onboard a Hurtigruten cruise,” said Jackie Adami, Managing Director at Development Promotions. “Our sales revenue was up 45% compared to 2019, making it one of our best travel expos in recent years.”

Also guided holiday tours have become a popular option for many South Africans. 

Alex Gonsalves, On The Go Tours General Manager South Africa and Middle East, reported that Turkey was a bestseller for guided holiday tours. “Our biggest seller over the Expo period was Turkey, and I think this was due to the 50% discount we had offered on this tour, easy accessibility from a flight point of view and the ease of applying for the ETA visa.”

“We look forward to Flight Centre’s Travel Expo every year and it has become a highlight in our sales and marketing calendar,” said Bronwyn Strydom, Marketing Manager for The Travel Corporation (TTC). “This year presented a few challenges with the current Coronavirus outbreak being one, but I know that TTC’s focused messaging and 100-year reputation for stability and experience were key factors in securing bookings. 

South Africans undeterred by global events

South Africans are still travelling despite uncertain global conditions.

“As a travel company, we have a responsibility to always be at the forefront of giving our customers factual information,” said Kim Taylor, Customer Experience Director at the Flight Centre Travel Group. We take great guidance from reputable organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the NICD. Our responsibility is to support customers by making them aware of their options and ensure they are informed at all times.” 

Travel insurance is now more important than ever, she adds. 

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