The top destinations for South Africans in 2023

One of the top destinations for South Africans is the beautiful Island, Le Morne, Mauritius. Picture: Instagram

One of the top destinations for South Africans is the beautiful Island, Le Morne, Mauritius. Picture: Instagram

Published Feb 11, 2023


Whether you’re dreaming about a vacation on the beach or in a city filled with hidden gems, or on a deserted tropical island, the world offers much to explore.

According to travel industry experts, a handful of international destinations are already emerging as trending spots for 2024.

Here's a look at what's on the map for South Africans in 2023.

Brussels, Belgium

Belgium, Picture: Pexels

There has been a spike in South African travellers wanting to explore Belgium more, thanks to the reintroduction of direct flights between the two countries after more than 20 years. It may be known for its chocolate, beer, and waffles on tap, but there’s more than meets the eye.

Emmanuel Menu, CCO of Air Belgium said: "Air Belgium's twice-weekly flights between Brussels, Johannesburg and Cape Town, which we introduced in September 2022, have already led to a spike in visitors from South Africa."

Compared to its close cousins Amsterdam and Paris, it's smaller and less well-known. However, dynamite comes in small packages; with it’s own art, delicious local cuisine, unique museums, fantastic summer festivals, vibrant nightlife and beautiful architecture.

According to Brussel Travel Instagram post, the main attractions include the historic Grand Place, Manneken Pis, the Atomium, La Monnaie/De Munt and the Museums of Art and History. Brussels is also known as the capital of the comic strip.

March through May is a great time to travel, says Menu. "During these months, the weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 8 to 17 degrees Celsius. It's also a great time for sightseeing, as there are fewer crowds, and you're more likely to get good hotel deals," he says. “What’s more, is that Belgium is at the heart of Europe. Travellers can catch a quick train or a flight and seamlessly visit France, the Netherlands, Germany or even Italy or Switzerland.”

Koh Mak, Thailand

The Tourism Association of Thailand (TAT) is making encouraging moves to prioritise sustainability - a philosophy that environmentally conscious travellers from South Africa and beyond will appreciate. Picture: Instagram

Thailand is an all-time favourite for South Africans. Bianca Mazur, general manager at Flight Centre South Africa says the country has a lot to offer, including good value and great choices.

"Thailand will shine this year and again underpin its popularity as an affordable option for the budget-conscious South African traveller."

There’s a demand for destinations conscious of protecting resources and the environment has changed. A recent study by Statista found that 81% of travellers worldwide consider sustainable travel important.

Koh Mak in Trat province as Thailand's first low-carbon destination. The island is home to the magnificent Ao Kao and Ao Suan Yai beaches, is largely privately owned by five families who carefully manage its development. This could be the perfect romantic getaway on white sands and tropical waters.

Manchester, United Kingdom

United Kingdom, Picture: Pexels

According to Antoinette Turner, general manager at Flight Centre, London was the most popular destination for South Africans in 2022, but Manchester soon became the second most visited British city. It has gained a reputation as one of the coolest cities in the country.

Turner explains that the popularity of the UK among South African travellers is related to the close relationship between the two countries, which means there are often family and friends living there that South Africans want to visit.

"But the UK also has a lot to offer culturally, historically and scenically, and those travelling for business or family also want to explore other cities in the UK, if possible," she adds.

This year the Manchester Museum will make a return which additionally undergone a £15 million makeover. The museum will open with an exhibition on the Golden Mummies of Egypt, which will be bucket-list stuff for many South African visitors.

Le Morne, Mauritius

Le Morne Island, Mauritius. Picture: Pexels

The Indian Ocean island experienced a bumper December. No wonder, then, that it's on the hit list of South African travellers who missed the boat during the high season. Sean Kritzinger, executive chairperson of the GILTEDGE Group said: "Mauritius is perennially popular with South Africans, offering options for every budget, and world-class accommodation to suit all tastes and a variety of activities, from water sports and golf to hiking and mountain biking.’’

In addition, Mauritius was named the leading destination for adventure tourism in the Indian Ocean at the 2022 World Travel Awards (WTA) and attracts more than just beach lovers to its shores. Hiking is becoming increasingly popular with travellers looking to add a touch of adrenaline to their holiday. Basing oneself at Le Morne on the far south western tip of Mauritius and you'll be right on the doorstep of Le Morne Brabant, the island's most preserved and wildest mountain - and there are plenty of resorts nearby with idyllic beaches for a perfectly balanced holiday.

New York, US

New York City is a strong market for bleisure travel and he predicts it will become more popular in 2023. Picture: Pexels

It comes as no surprise that South Africans want to embark on a journey to the City that never sleeps.TV Series such as Sex and The City, and Broad City influence the itch to travel to NY and experience the many things the city has to offer.

It is also noted that 60% of business travellers expand their work trips to business travel, says Lance Nkwe, corporate marketing manager, Corporate Traveller.

“Bleisure travel means workers can enjoy their holidays at reduced expenses. At the same time, this kind of travelling has been proven to be quite motivating for staff,” he says. While London is popular with South African travellers, Nkwe says New York is also a strong market for bleisure travel and he predicts it will shine in 2023.

Sightseeing, discovering culture and shopping are popular reasons to roam around the city a little bit longer than planned. Adding a few days to a trip to New York City is definitely worthwhile when seeking out all this the city has to offer in its 24/7 lifestyle. From Broadway musicals and plays to evening visits to iconic landmarks; activities are available once business hours are done.

Let us not forget the exquisite cuisine and restaurants that cater until late, so you can grab a bite before or after you plan to paint the town red.