South African travellers are confined to armchair travel, but results show that travel dreaming hasn’t gone out of the window.

The Flight Centre Travel Group South Africa has reported an increase in the time users spend browsing their website for holidays since lockdown began. From the beginning of the lockdown period, 27 March 2020, to 16 April, the company’s website data shows that overall pages per session have increased by 12.7%.

“While South African travellers are staying home now so that we can travel later, we’ve seen that travel is not out of mind,” says Sue Garrett, General Manager of Product and Marketing at the Flight Centre Travel Group. Globally, markets report that travel ‘window shopping’ is very much alive. Shibani Walia, Associate Director Research and Insights at Tripadvisor, in a recent TripAdvisor webinar said that 82% of their respondents are excited to plan their next trip post Covid-19 and 63% have spent time in the last week planning and researching potential trips.

Tripadvisor and global experts agree that travel growth is expected but will take time to recover. Travel restrictions around the world are likely to remain in place until June. Experts predict that from July to October, restrictions will begin to be eased, in a phased approach.

Local travellers will begin with domestic and regional travel
“All the predictions indicate that, globally, local travel will be the first to bounce back. We can certainly see this on our website, in that Africa holidays pages and the Maldives have been the best performance since the lockdown period began.”

Garrett expects local travellers to start dipping their toes into the water with staycations or weekend getaways not far from home. “Africa is also uniquely positioned to make an albeit slow, but sure, recovery. The vast expanse and diversity of the African continent is off the beaten track and away from large crowds. We expect to see this type of intrepid, exploration, adventure and bush break safari-style travel increase in popularity. The shorter flight times will also be appealing,” says Garrett.

The Indian Oceans Islands, always a bestseller in the South African market, will remain popular. “Mauritius and Zanzibar, for example, have always represented good value for money holidays for rand-conscious travellers,” says Garrett. Flight Centre data also reports the Maldives searches in the top two regions, alongside searches for Africa holiday packages.

Different types of holidays will be preferred
The website data also shows that all-inclusive packages, Mauritius, beach, budget deals, Phuket, and family holidays were the top six searches made over the lockdown period.

Post-lockdown, social distancing won’t disappear and will affect the way the whole world travels. Countries will start to slowly open their borders and restrictions may ease, but social distancing rules and hygiene guidelines will remain priorities until coronavirus vaccines are accessible.

Adventure, independent and intrepid travellers are expected to hit the road or the skies first. Preferred types of travel in the first phases of post-coronavirus recovery will include off the beaten path adventures, mindful travel, exploration trips, relaxing fly and flop holidays, staycations and road trips.

Flight Centre, Sawubo

Travellers are expected to prefer the peace of mind that comes with self-catering holidays and self-drive, with road travel and domestic flights initially preferred over long-haul flights. A pent up demand for business travel is likely. Not large groups and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) travel at first, but small groups and meeting trips.

“There’s no doubt that spending and travel confidence is at an all-time low,” says Garrett. “But we’ve observed time and time again, through economic challenges, visa challenges and the like, that South Africans are resilient,” says Garrett. “The travel industry globally has been dealt a huge and unprecedented blow, and it will take months and years for the industry to recover to 2019 levels. How people travel is undoubtedly changed forever.

“But, what is positive, is that more than ever, those that are able to travel, and South Africans long dreaming of a trip, will be more eager than ever to hit the road,” concludes Garrett.

Author: Jenna Berndt