A record-breaking 30,000 visitors attended the ninth annual Travel Expo at Johannesburg’s Ticketpro Dome, the largest consumer travel show in southern Africa

A record-breaking 30 000 visitors attended the ninth annual Travel Expo at Johannesburg’s Ticketpro Dome on 9 and 10 February 2019, the largest consumer travel show in southern Africa, hosted by the Flight Centre Travel Group.

“It was definitely the greatest travel show South Africa has ever seen,” said Andrew Stark, Flight Centre Travel Group Managing Director, Middle East and Africa. “Over R50-million in travel was sold, an increase of 40% on last year’s results.”

Flight Centre said more than 70% of travel booked was for international holidays. 53% of bookings were for holiday packages, followed by flights and cruises.

"We certainly proved that South Africans are resilient and are still travelling, perhaps more than ever," offered Stark. “We believe the strengthening rand and time of year played a part, and, that many South Africans feel, no matter what happens, they are going to get away on holiday.”

Top destinations

According to Stark, the overall top destinations booked were Mauritius, Thailand, Australia, the US and Indonesia. Mauritius, Thailand, Zanzibar and Bali packages were bestsellers, showing that beach and island packaged holidays are as popular as ever.

“Cruise sales have grown in popularity year on year and 2019 was no different, with cruise sales up 35% from last year” he said.

Cruiseabout, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group, shared that popular cruise destinations over the two-day event included the Mediterranean, Italy and local cruises. Cruiseabout also reported more bookings for Scandinavia and Russia than in previous years, as well as a bucket-list 'Northern Lights' cruise by the Norwegian cruise company, Hurtigruten.

Guided holiday tours continue to be a popular option for many South Africans. Multi-generational travel is a growing trend for 2019 and guided holidays are ideal for these types of family trips.

“We had a fantastic Travel Expo this year, and it was interesting to see how many people came in knowing precisely what they wanted to book,” commented Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation South Africa, which includes guided holiday brands Trafalgar, Costsaver, Contiki and Insight Vacations.

“The Travel Expo has now become known as the place to find the best deal. Our brands cover a broad segment, from youth to budget to luxury travel, and bookings were fantastic across all these sectors,” she said. “Turkey, Croatia, Greece and Thailand were some of the most sought-after destinations, while the usual favourites of Italy, Spain and Portugal also had a solid showing.”

More South Africans saving for travel

This year’s Expo also saw a record number of sign ups for Flight Centre's Stokvel club, a communal savings fund that enables members to leverage group buying power and save towards travel.

“We launched Stokvel in 2018 and saw a 48% increase in sign-ups at this year’s Expo,” said Lance Nkwe, Flight Centre Travel Group Business Leader - Emerging Markets.

South African Tourism had a significant presence at this year’s show with over 16 local exhibitors showcasing their product.  

“I think the Expo’s success is that South Africans truly were getting 500-plus exclusive travel deals and that there was something for everyone,” Stark offered. “These record sales bode well for travel and tourism in and from South Africa.”

What’s in store for Travel Expo 2020

“We had 130 travel experts at the Expo, 21% more than last year and we already know we’re going to have to increase that number in 2020 due to the unprecedented success of this world-class Expo,” Stark said. “Travel Expo has become synonymous with South Africans planning their holidays for the entire year."

“We are still the only travel company to put on a show of this magnitude, and we’re all very proud of our success. The array of product and great specials have achieved these world-class results and truly created the greatest travel show South Africa has ever seen.”