South Africa travel picks up

WHILE domestic tourism is still far from full recovery, all indications signal a glimmer of hope on the horizon. When South Africa went into lockdown on March 26 2020, both domestic and international travel came to a standstill.

The easing of lockdown levels at the start of June ushered in domestic business travel. In late July, intra-provincial travel opened up which meant that South Africans could travel within their provinces. This was shortly followed by the opening of inter-provincial travel, spurring life into the domestic travel market.

The results from South African Tourism’s Domestic Survey for the month of August show that domestic travel reached 62 percent of the 3.9 million trips seen in August 2019. This result indicates that desire for domestic travel was high and that travel is expected to increase in the latter months of 2020.  The most popular month for travel is December, where most South Africans intend on taking holiday trips. 

The predicted upswing in domestic travel is evident in both accommodation and flight patterns. According to TrevPAR World, occupancy of 1015 hotels in South Africa during October was almost half (45 percent) of occupancy at the same time in 2019. A steady recovery of occupancy from May onwards can be seen with Year on Year comparison in occupancies increasing from 24 percent of 2019 in May to 45 percent of 2019 in October.

There was some recovery in occupancy for 3 to 5 star hotels, with the occupancy for October 2020 registering at 29.6 percent (the occupancy rate was 67 percent in October 2019).  This signals a steady recovery from previous months in 2020 where the occupancy was 16.8 percent in May, 18.1 percent in June, 17.3 percent in July, 23.1 percent in August, and 27.4 percent in September. 

Similar trends can be seen for AirBnB occupancy with October occupancy at 59 percent of occupancies seen in 2019. Importantly, this was double the occupancy rate of September (30 percent).

According to Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), there has been an increase in domestic passenger movements between the months of June and September 2020.  All three international airports in South Africa, OR Tambo International Airport (ORT), Cape Town International Airport (CTIA) and King Shaka International Airport have seen a month-on-month increase in passenger numbers from June to September 2020.  This increase indicates that there has been an upswing in domestic travel in recent months. As of 6 September, ORT accounts for the biggest amount for domestic passenger traffic (277 825) followed by CTIA (183 590).