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Sand, sea and cities - the most popular destinations South Africans will travel to this festive season

Holidaymakers at Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town. Picture by Leon Lestrade.

Holidaymakers at Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town. Picture by Leon Lestrade.

Published Oct 2, 2021


Johannesburg - The threat of a looming fourth wave has done little to distract South Africans from organising a well-deserved holiday this festive season.

This is according to various travel agents from around the country who say they’ve witnessed a dramatic increase in bookings by South Africans for the December period, with a flurry of local and international holiday bookings received.

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Thompsons Holidays, say they’ve been inundated with festive holiday bookings.

“We currently stand at over 2 000 bookings and counting ,” said Joanne Adolphe, CEO of Thompsons Holidays.

Among the most popular holiday destinations include the Maldives, Egypt and Mauritius, with many also choosing to travel locally.

“As more destinations open up we are also experiencing an increase in bookings for Europe including France, Switzerland, Spain, Lapland, USA and Germany,” said Adolphe.

13/09/2006 People enjoying themselves in the Valley of the Waves. Picture: Phill Magakoe

“Popular local getaways include Durban, Cape Town, Sun City, Drakensberg and bush breaks around country.”

Adolphe said there has been a pent up demand by South Africans to travel to all destinations, having been unable to travel around freely since the country went into lockdown.

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Many countries have now also lifted their travel bans on South Africa, which has resulted in a flurry of bookings.

“Those that are still cautious about crowds are booking self-catering holidays as well as bush breaks and smaller properties in the Drakensberg. This way they are able to create mini bubbles which give them peace of mind.”

Adolphe added that bookings have increased compared to last year’s festive period.

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“Last year we were restricted to local travel only, whereas this year there are a lot more destinations to choose from now.”

An increase in bookings has also enabled the travel industry to slowly get back on to its feet, said Adolphe.

“The travel industry was hard hit by the pandemic as demand for travel was heavily restricted, but the recovery has been remarkable and hotels have rapidly reopened and airline seat capacity increases weekly.”

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Flight Centre say they too have witnessed a huge increase in bookings for the December period.

“December bookings are up 335% on the same period last year, and it is looking positive that we will surpass last December’s numbers,” said Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group GM Supply, Pricing and Marketing.

Flight Centre’s most popular destinations booked by South Africans during the festive period include Tanzania, Mauritius, Maldives, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Many are also choosing to stay local and travel within the country, said Garrett.

“Locally the most popular destinations are Cape Town, Sun City, Knysna, Durban, and Umhlanga.”

While they have seen a huge increase in bookings by South Africans, Garrett says there is still a long way to go until the travel industry gets firmly back on to its feet.

“Travel has become highly complex. Each country has its own requirements, which in turn brings its own challenges.”

Nasara Travels, which deals mostly with corporate travel, says their most popular bookings include Mauritius, Zanzibar, Seychelles, and Dubai, UAE.

The sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. Picture: Yusuf Moolla

“These countries have only just lifted some restrictions recently to South Africans due to the delta variant in the country,” said Ayesha Ali, spokesperson for Nasara Travels.

“Most countries are afraid to open their borders to South Africans. If they do , they normally require you to do a 14-day quarantine period, which most people cannot afford or either don’t have the time for.”

While leisure holidays have drastically increased, with South Africans rushing to book their end-of-year holidays, corporate travel is on the decrease, said Ali.

She said most companies have shown hesitation to fly out clients for meetings, when meetings can instead be done on video calls apps such as Zoom.

“We have made less than five bookings for December holidays keeping in mind we don’t do much of leisure we are corporate based.

“We deal with 90% corporate travel and 10% leisure travel, but still even our corporate clients have been restricted in flying. Most meetings were held on Zoom instead of them flying out for meetings.

“Companies have now realised instead of sending two or three of their employees, they are now only sending one person and the rest are attending online meetings which means even if travel totally opens up it will take a lot of time to get us back to where we were before the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has changed the dynamic of business and its taught companies how to cut down on cost. They are also getting more out of staff that work from home.”

The serenic Seychelles. File image.

Meanwhile, Professor Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at Wits University, told the Saturday Star recently that South Africa can expect a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, however, the frequency and magnitude of it would be dependent on a number of factors, including the behaviour of South Africans during the festive period.

“These include vaccine coverage, the percentage of the population who derived immunity through natural infection (which is estimated to be as high as 60-70% in SA), and further evolution of the virus,” said Madhi.

“It would, however, be surprising with the roll-out of Covid vaccines and the high force of past infection, for further resurgences to result in as high rates of hospitalisation and deaths compared with what had transpired with the first three waves.”

“The resurgence will likely differ in its onset by province, but I suspect it will start materialising from December onward.”

“Behaviour would contribute to the resurgence, however, that is not only because of people going on vacation. Besides, going on vacation, which is largely middle-class indulgence, more so in the current dire economic state in SA.”