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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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Good news for local tourism sector as SA sees surge in inbound flight searches from countries across the globe

The Wild Coast. Picture: JIM McLagan. File image.

The Wild Coast. Picture: JIM McLagan. File image.

Published Aug 5, 2022


Johannesburg - Flight searches for travel to South Africa have grown by 3% in the second half of 2022 and are returning to pre-pandemic levels, a new study has found.

The research was conducted by Cheapflights, a global travel search site that compares flights, hotels and rental cars.

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It found that South Africa was seeing a surge in inbound flight searches from several regions.

This included the UK, which tops the list as it saw an almost 30% growth in flight searches, while New Zealand, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe also showed robust growth in flight searches to South Africa, Cheapflights said.

There was also high growth from other European countries such as Austria (87%) and France (43%).

“This indicates that inbound travellers may be feeling restored confidence in international travel – and also shows that the country’s efforts to attract tourists are starting to show results,” said Laure Bornet, GM, KAYAK EMEA, which manages

She explained that while the list of countries from where travellers are most looking to go to South Africa remains quite traditional, there are some other global destinations showing robust growth in flight searches to our shores this year.

This includes New Zealand and Zimbabwe flight searches to South Africa for the second half of 2022, which are up by about an astounding 222% and 205%, respectively, compared with the same period in 2019.

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Meanwhile, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are in the top five destinations that also show the highest growth in flight searches to South Africa – about 126% and 119%, respectively. They are closely followed by Poland, with just over 100% increase in flight searches since the pandemic.

“This is incredibly positive for South Africa’s tourism sector, which has been amplifying its efforts to grow inbound travel from not just traditional source markets, but expanding its promotion further across the globe,” said Bornet.

She explained that the UK has long been one of South Africa’s biggest tourism source markets and it appears that British travellers are again showing a solid interest in South Africa’s travels, with searches for flights until the end of this year growing by about 27% compared with the same pre-pandemic period.

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“Increases in flight searches from other European countries are also very positive, with Austria having a spike in flight searches of about 87% and France seeing an increase in flight searches of about 43%.

“There was an approximate 14% dip in flight searches from Germany which, however, did not prevent this country from climbing to the second place of the countries that searched for flights to SA the most.”

Meanwhile, the US seized the third spot with a drop of about 21% in flight searches to Mzansi versus 2019.

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Bornet believes that from ocean to wine, travellers are looking to explore more of South Africa’s tourism experiences.

“A broad spectrum of South Africa’s destinations seems to be attracting global travellers,” she said.

According to Cheapflights’ hotel search data, along with Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, which are always favourite destinations, there is expansion in interest to some smaller and unique places in the country.

“Stellenbosch, known as the gourmet capital of South Africa and one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, climbed to the third place of the most searched-for destinations in South Africa among inbound tourists,” said Bornet.

“The seaside village of Hermanus, which is a hidden gem that offers tourists sightings of whales and great white sharks, landed in the 10th spot among domestic destinations in which international travellers want to stay during their journey to South Africa.

“We are seeing a global trend, where travellers want to experience new, unique and different things. And so they are looking beyond the usual favourites to see what else a country has to offer. This is very positive for a lot of various local tourism players, as more eyes are turned to their offerings, linking the tourism and experience economies,” said Bornet.

Meanwhile, tourism in South Africa also boosts interest in travels to the rest of Africa.

“With airlines launching more flight routes connecting SA with other places in the region and the rest of Africa becoming more accessible, international travellers seem to be eagerly picking up on the idea of exploring neighbouring destinations along with their trip to South Africa,” said Bornet.

Cheapflights’ one-way flight search data showed that the most searched-for destinations in the rest of Africa, with departures from South Africa, were Harare and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Port Louis in Mauritius, Windhoek in Namibia, and Nairobi in Kenya.

“International visitors seem to be opening up to exploring other destinations across the African continent, and the launching of new routes and code-share agreements from airlines may be helping to stimulate this interest further as ease of access to the rest of Africa is even greater than before,” said Bornet.

The Saturday Star