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Travel Trends That Are Unique To South Africa

  • 5 min read

Every year someone writes a travel trends piece that – more or less – can be applied to a whole host of countries and destinations. These trends usually predict travel behaviour, trending destinations and more. But the pandemic and the differing travel restrictions which are in place all around the world, mean that we can no longer apply a one size fits all approach to travel and destination trends. The pace of vaccinations around the world also means that some destinations will continue to struggle with tourism over the next few weeks and months. 

“Many key inbound markets for South Africa have had very rapid and successful vaccine roll-outs,” says Sandra Kneubuhler, Radisson Hotel Group Country Director of Sales – South Africa. “Unfortunately due to constrained global supply, South Africa’s vaccine rollout, while now gathering momentum, is further behind many key markets. Our improved vaccine rollout has been recognised as we have been removed from Germany’s ‘red’ list and we are hopeful that other key markets such as the UK will follow suit.  However, continued and sustained vaccine rollout is key to tourism recovery.”

These factors and considerations have made way for a new set of travel trends which apply mainly to South Africa and other developing countries. Here are the top five trends we’ve seen emerge in recent months. 

More family holidays

Where people would previously travel as a couple or with friends and leave the kids at home,, there is a big move towards more family holidays among South Africans at the moment. 

“We’re seeing great interest in our family rooms and offers from local families,” notes Clinton Thom of Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “And it’s not just the families with younger kids. Those with older, teenage children are also holidaying together more than we’ve seen before.” 

“The pandemic has made families more careful about who they let into their respective bubbles, but it has also made everyone value their loved ones a lot more,” notes Thom. 

A greater appreciation for what we have locally

With borders being closed for so long, budgets stretched as far as possible and no option of international travel, South Africans are finding themselves more in love with the natural beauty of their country than ever before. 

Kruger Shalati: The Train on the Bridge has, for example, seen a lot of local interest from South African travellers. Its sister property, The Kruger Station, has also seen an influx of domestic tourists frequenting the restaurants and offerings in the area. 

An uptick in travel immediately after lockdown regulations change

Whenever there is a change in South African lockdown regulations (from high to low), there is an immediate interest in travel from all across South Africa., a global flight search aggregator, is happy to report that searches for domestic flights surged since the president’s announcement on Sunday, 25 July 2021. The biggest week-on-week jumps were for flights from Cape Town to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Durban and for Johannesburg to Cape Town, which shows a significant jump of about 76%* in flight searches. Month-on-month results are similar, including a 71% increase in flight searches from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. 

“While flight searches are still down vs. pre-COVID, we’re seeing encouraging signs following the recent announcements with data suggesting that locals are very keen to get back to travel and to support domestic tourism,” says Laure Bornet, General Manager KAYAK EMEA, which manages Cheapflights. 

Virtual travel will stick around longer 

Residents of the UK, Germany, the USA and other first world countries are being allowed to travel within their regions and even between one another. In South Africa, however, we aren’t as lucky as COVID-19 remains a threat and we remain on the “red list” for travel. This has resulted in many people looking for more ways to explore the world virtually. 

Virtual travel isn’t a new trend now, but it is one that will stick around for us in South Africa. This means meeting people from other parts of the world through activities such as Airbnb Online Experiences. Airbnb Experiences offers an array of options like meditation with Buddhist monks, virtual visits with the dogs of Chernobyl, cooking with a Moroccan family, and more. 

It might not be the same as visiting a new city in person, but Google Street View and Google Arts and Culture can still give travel junkies a fix. 

Simply go to Google Maps and type in a location that you wish to see. Once you find your desired location on Google Maps, click and drag the orange person icon in the bottom right corner of the map and drop them in whichever street you wish you explore. You can walk up and down the street and explore the whole neighbourhood without leaving your home. On Google Arts and Culture, you can check out exhibitions,museums and sites from around the world. Nifty, right?

South Africa will continue to be a popular remote working destination 

Being on a “red list” means that people who travel from South Africa can’t easily get into another country. It doesn’t mean that people can’t travel to us and stay here for a while. And we’re seeing more of this happen as companies around the world adopt a “work from anywhere” approach. 

Cape Town especially has emerged strong when it comes to best remote working destinations. With a laid-back lifestyle, open-air options for socialising and natural beauty galore, it’s hardly surprising. 

We expect many SA-lovers who have freedom to move, to make their way to SA to live and work from here for some time.     

So, while a lot of the world gets back to a semblance of normal and their borders cautiously open, we’re setting our own trends here on the tip of Africa.