Local travellers were the heroes for South Africa’s struggling tourism industry as travel began to fully reopen at the end of last year. This year, a year marked by rising inflation, fuel shortages, and high flight prices, Mzansi’s holidaymakers are choosing local travel for the second year in a row.
South Africans are spoiled for choice with the sheer variety of landscapes, climate variations, activities, and vacation spots on offer across the country. While options include choices such as the Karoo, the mountainous Great Drakensberg, and Gauteng city lights, many are choosing to go coastal, with a big portion of these travellers setting their sights towards the Mother City.
“Responsible tourism has taken on an entirely new emphasis as South African travellers turn their attention to the most effective ways to enable their own economy to further recover from the fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” notes Clinton Thom, General Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “There has been a great shift among travellers to first think local before they decide to spend their hard-earned money in other parts of the world.”
Some hotels in Cape Town are already reporting a bumper season, with holiday bookings across the city rapidly filling up for the year-end period. In a recent Conversation article looking at tourism trends, over 40% of travellers reported choosing local travel for holidays, while 36.9% reported planning to travel locally this year to visit friends and family.
The city’s extensive coastline, which is home to world-famous blue flag beaches like Camps Bay and Clifton, is a draw for coastal cities like Cape Town. With more than five magnificent national parks, including Table Mountain, Wilderness, Bontebok, West Coast, and others, the Western Cape region is a nature lover’s paradise.
The tourism sector is seeing a growth in demand for day experiences, meaning people now want to go to destinations and enjoy daytime activities without having to stay overnight.
Head of Marketing and Communications at online booking platform, Jurni, Tshepo Matlou, says, “Hiking is now a popular activity among travellers in the country. The reason is that the pandemic locked them in for a long time, and since they are now free to move freely, they chose open spaces.”
“The travel sector is starting to see a large number of first-timers signing up and trying new destinations. Travellers get the health benefits of doing outdoor activities, which is commendable,” he adds.
As local tourism is supported, so are those who work in the industry and have struggled the past few years. On offer to tourists to the Western Cape this season are a host of new restaurants,ranging from local, street food and even Michelin starred.
“Irrespective of how far travellers will now venture in their own country, however, as a result of the rising costs of goods, they will be seeking both value for money and enticing experiences,” notes Thom. “Those operators who can offer the full package will be first choices, leading the way and being the first to ensure their own survival.”
Upnup’s Ricki Allardice comments that “ultimately, holidays should be something we look forward to, rather than another anxiety point in our already stressful lives. Remember that sensible saving habits can go a long way toward ensuring that’s the case.”
“For example, for those of us looking to plan for international or big local family holidays a few years into the future, perhaps combining the approach of saving with innovation and technology could help us. Opting to stay local these holidays and continuing to save for an out-of-country trip in the future meant that you did not have to compromise on your next holiday,” says Allardice.
Upnup’s app allows users to save small amounts of bitcoin every time they make a purchase. Accumulating these fragments over a long period of time can really boost holiday savings. The key thing to keep in mind is that you need to take a long-term approach with Bitcoin.
Thom concludes: “For all local tourists embracing South Africa as their destination of choice, know that your decision is working towards something we South Africans have become very good at: stimulating a sense of national pride in what we have, and in what we can achieve when we get behind a common goal. “That goal, now, is the continued recovery of our local tourism industry.”