Dubai and Mauritius are top trending destinations for South African travellers

From South Africa, the top five trending destinations to escape the winter are Dubai, Mauritius, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Nairobi. File image.

From South Africa, the top five trending destinations to escape the winter are Dubai, Mauritius, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Nairobi. File image.

Published Jun 30, 2024


The travel industry was one of the hardest hit sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic and has been picking itself up from the floor since 2020.

This year, however, the sector is expected to pick up.

This was according to data released by the global report from the Mastercard Economics Institute – “Travel Trends 2024”.

The report found that this year, consumer spending on travel is robust, with significant increases in passenger traffic.

Despite fluctuating exchange rates and varying levels of affordability, the desire to travel remains stronger than ever.

From South Africa, the top five trending destinations to escape the winter are Dubai, Mauritius, Istanbul, Frankfurt, and Nairobi.

Cape Town is among the top three trending destinations from Saudi Arabia.

Globally, Japan (#1), Ireland (#2) and the UAE (#9) are among the global front-runners for top trending destinations in the past 12 months.

Looking forward, however, Munich ranks as the top trending destination for the next three months (June to August 2024), given the football European Championship action.

In 2024, the travel sector is flourishing, with nine out of the past 10 record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry occurring this year.

“The travel sector in Africa is recovering well, complemented by an appetite to discover destinations that offer nature, culture, and authentic experiences. It’s great to see travellers extend their stays, and also use more digital payments, both of which are very positive for the tourism industry at large, as well as local governments building diversified economies,” said Natalia Lechmanova, the chief economist EEMEA at Mastercard Economics Institute.

In addition, growing digitalisation is driving greater convenience for tourists visiting sub-Saharan Africa.

The fast growth in adopting digital payments has also meant a lower reliance on cash in the region, resulting in shifts in spending patterns within tourism.

According to Mastercard Economics Institute estimates, the percentage of tourism cash volumes (measured by ATM withdrawals as a proportion of card spend) made by tourists while visiting sub-Saharan Africa dropped to the lowest point on record in 2024 – about 10 percentage points lower compared to 2019.

While domestically, most digital payments across the region are made through mobile money payments, travellers rely on their cards to make payments in the region more than ever before.

Record-breaking travel

International tourist arrivals to Africa have exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the first quarter of 2024.

South Africa welcomed 2.4 million visitors from the rest of the world, representing a 15.4% increase compared to the same period in 2023.

Mauritius recorded a 16% increase over the same period. In 2023, tourist arrivals to Tanzania increased by 24.3% to a record-breaking 1 808 205.

Leisure for longer

Travellers to South Africa are extending their trips by almost two extra days (from 7 or 8 days) compared to pre-pandemic.

The global average is an extra day, a trend driven by warmer climates and affordable destinations.

The Mastercard Economics Institute found a clear inverse relationship between the price of the destination and the incremental number of days tourists spend while in those destinations. In other words, the cheaper the destination, the longer the stay.

Experience economy on the go

Consumers have prioritised meaningful experiences over material goods, even when travelling.

Spending on experiences totals 12% of tourism sales, according to SpendingPulse Destinations which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment – the highest point in at least five years as of March 2024. Memorable events are driving travel trends, whether it is for concerts (like Taylor Swift shows) or sporting events (like the Cricket World Cup).