Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
8 Jun 2021
12:24 pm

Domestic travel on the rise thanks to lockdown

Kaunda Selisho

Domestic travel has become more appealing to South Africans with international travel restrictions still in place.

Picture: Taryn Elliott

Searches for domestic travel options and affordable travel deals are up by 22% since the start of lockdown.

This is according to global flight search and travel deals website cheapflights.co.za which has announced the trending destinations for South Africans in 2021.

Cheapflights believes the data below shows a promising future for domestic tourism. This is especially due to the fact there is no clear sign when international travel will get back to normal.

With the borders largely closed due to the pandemic for the foreseeable future, perhaps it is time for more South Africans to take the opportunity to explore new places a little closer to home.

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Top domestic destinations based on flight searches

Among the flight searches done since the start of lockdown, these are the top 10 cities in the country South Africans are interested in going to:

  • Cape Town, Western Cape
  • Johannesburg, Gauteng
  • Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
  • Gqeberha, Eastern Cape
  • George, Western Cape
  • East London, Eastern Cape
  • Bloemfontein, Free State
  • Nelspruit, Mpumalanga
  • Kimberley, Northern Cape
  • Mthatha, Eastern Cape

According to Cheapflights, domestic travel has not been all leisure though. Most of the people who have made their way to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban during this period have done so for business.

“What is quite interesting to note is the presence on the list of smaller towns like Nelspruit and Kimberley, which are some of the less-travelled regions of the country,” said Cheapflights, before adding that small local towns are attracting significant interest.

As a result of this, the company has seen a noteworthy jump in searches for particular places in the country.

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These are the top five cities that had the highest ranking jump from 2019 to 2021:

  • Hoedspruit, Limpopo – climbed 70 spots from 118 in 2019 to 48 in 2021
  • Upington, Northern Cape – up 49 spots from 94 in 2019 to 45 in 2021
  • Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal – climbed 46 spots from 95 in 2019 to 49 in 2021
  • Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal – up 47 spots from 97 in 2019 to 50 in 2021
  • Margate, KwaZulu-Natal – jumped 45 spots from 77 in 2019 to 32 in 2021

“The above shows a clear increase in searches to KwaZulu-Natal towns, which could largely be attributed to people now feeling safer to visit their families after interprovincial borders opened up again. Small towns like Hoedspruit are not travelled to very often, unless of course it’s to visit the Kruger National Park – this may be the answer for the notable rise in South Africans wanting to fly there.”

Penguins in Cape Town

Penguins in Cape Town. Picture: Taryn Elliott

People want shorter breaks

The data also shows that many South Africans are searching for domestic travel options with an average span of four days.

Cheapflights believes this may be attributed to people being focused on work or budget-conscious.

“People have been tightening their purse strings since the onset of the pandemic, but are still interested in entertainment and taking some time away. This is compared to last year this time when people were searching for visits to the same cities for an average of five days.”

“We are delighted to see the interest in local travel among South Africans,” Kayak EMEA general manager Laure Bornet said.

“South Africa has a lot to offer in terms of destinations with attractive nature and landmarks. Moreover, our data shows that prices for domestic flights this year are down by almost one-fourth when compared to pre-Covid times of 2019. Now is the perfect time for exploring closer to home,” she said.

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