Johannesburg – As many South Africans look forward their mid-year holiday break, a new study has found that Europe is the top destination for South African travellers during this period.
The research, conducted by global travel search site Cheapflights.co.za, found that over a third (36%) of all flight searches have been made for destinations in Europe.
“This signals that South Africans are once again open to travelling beyond their borders, to their favourite destinations,” Laure Bornet, general manager of Kayak EMEA, which manages Cheapflights.co.za, believes.
“This is around a 30% increase in outbound European destination flight searches compared to the pre-pandemic period.”
She added that flight searches across South Africa are surpassing the pre-pandemic levels for winter by about 40%.
The UK seized the top spot in the list of countries most searched for by South African travellers.
“The UK has long been a favoured destination for South African holidaymakers for its summer season collating with SA’s winter period as well as the juncture with the local school holidays,” Bornet explained.
Following the UK, which saw an increase of around 47% in flight searches compared to 2019, was the US (about 15% up) and Turkey (about 79% up), the research found.
“When looking deeper into flight search changes in city destinations, London ranked first among the top 10 destinations for this period with a spike of around 45% in searches compared to 2019 levels,” she said.
Cheapflights.co.za believe that European destinations are definitely a sweet spot for South African travellers currently, with the top three seeing a significant increase in flight searches compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Istanbul came in second place with about 84% rise in flight searches compared to 2019. “Being one of the best connecting airports for South Africans travelling further to Europe and overseas, Istanbul was listed among the most searched cities and took sixth place before the pandemic.”
Bornet added that this year, with the local currency continuously sliding, holidaying in Turkey is becoming more attractive for international tourists which might have helped the Turkish metropolis to climb to the second spot in South Africa’s ranking.
In addition, Amsterdam, Athens and Lisbon take up the next European top spots, seeing around 52%, 25% and 3% growth in flight searches respectively compared to the pre-pandemic period.
“South Africans tend to visit the Netherlands to meet family and friends and experience a summer holiday together.
“While Athens and Lisbon, boasting rich culture and beautiful beaches located in the closest proximity, are also seen as one of the most budget-friendly holiday destinations in Europe,” Bornet said. This was important for South African travellers given the high price increases that they are experiencing locally, she added.
“Flight searches in South Africa hit a record high as international travel is bouncing back. With this winter's top destination figures closing in on the pre-pandemic level, South African holidaymakers are likely eager to get back to exploring their long-time favourite spots in Europe,” Bornet said.
She added that while rising prices are a major factor for many holidaymakers this year, the key is to start planning their vacations in advance.
“We suggest considering travelling in mid-September which can help save up to 15% of the budget for flights compared to early July – the most expensive time for flying internationally.”