Cape Town, South Africa – 7 November – Sojern, the leading travel marketing platform, has released compelling insights showcasing a travel boom to South Africa as of September 2023, with a special focus on the burgeoning Saudi Arabian market. The data, compared to September 2022, reveals a vibrant and diverse traveller landscape, emphasising the need for inclusive tourism to cater to the unique needs of Muslim travellers.
Weekly Flight/Hotel Search:
September 2023 has seen a thrilling uptick in weekly hotel searches compared to the previous two years, while flight searches are on par with pre-pandemic 2019 levels, signalling a rejuvenated interest and growing demand for South African destinations ahead of the upcoming high season.
Search Travel Lead Time:
A diverse array of travellers are flocking to South Africa, with 28% of people searching for trips they plan to take within the next seven days and 25% for trips more than three months ahead, eyeing the peak summer months from November to March. The data paints a picture of anticipation and excitement, with international travellers eagerly securing their flights.
About one-third (33%) of travellers are exploring trips lasting 4-7 days, with a significant 17% considering extended stays of 8-14 days. Furthermore, nearly one third (30%) of international travellers are booking trips lasting over 15 days. These statistics present boundless opportunities for Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) as visitors are eager to immerse themselves in the rich South African experience.
Distance and Traveller Composition:
The allure of South Africa is drawing nearly half (49%) of visitors from over 3,000 miles away, a slight increase year-over-year. When examining flight searches, which provide a more accurate reflection of group size compared to hotel searches, where travellers physically book individual seats versus rooms for multiple people, the diverse traveller composition remains steady. It features solo adventurers comprising 68%, couples at 19%, and families at 13%, each undoubtedly seeking their own unique South African journey.
Feeder Markets and Saudi Surge:
South Africa is witnessing a diverse influx from top feeder markets, including the US (24%), UK (6%), Germany (6%), and the Oceanic region (4%), after South African domestic travellers comprising 35% of total flight search volume since the beginning of the year. However, the spotlight is on the remarkable surge from Saudi Arabia, which takes the fifth and seventh spots respectively for hotel and flight search volume. This indicates a growing fascination with South Africa’s diverse landscapes, cultures, and experiences and aligns with projections of increased arrivals from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, between 2023 and 2030.
Embracing Diversity in Marketing Strategies:
The recent rise in visitors from Saudi Arabia, with a 187% increase in flight searches for the start of the high season in November year-on-year, underscores the importance of fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all, including Muslim travellers. The tourism industry is called upon to ensure facilities and services are tailored to meet the unique needs of this growing source market, embracing diversity and inclusivity as cornerstones of South African hospitality.
Stewart Smith, Managing Director MEA, Sojern, comments: “As the surge in travellers from Saudi Arabia highlights, South Africa continues to be an attractive and diverse destination. It’s imperative for the tourism industry to embrace inclusivity as a core value, catering to the unique needs of Muslim travellers. Employing a strategic digital marketing strategy to promote Halal-friendly services, access to prayer facilities, and modest and family friendly environments is essential in building trust and rapport with this growing source market.
Awareness of the Islamic calendar, offering alcohol-free options, and demonstrating cultural sensitivity are also essential when planning campaigns targeting visitors at all stages of their customer journey, from discovery, to planning, to booking.”
Collaborations with Islamic organisations and personalised experiences could further enhance the appeal of South Africa as a diverse and inclusive destination. The growing interest from Saudi Arabia and the consistent rise in searches and bookings as the shoulder season moves into summer present a golden opportunity for the tourism industry to showcase South Africa’s rich heritage and warm hospitality, ensuring every traveller feels welcomed and valued.
Fazal Behardeen, CEO of CrescentRating and HalalTrip, says: “According to the Mastercard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index 2023 report, South Africa has secured the seventh position among non-OCI destinations. The report reflects the country's diverse culture, traditions, and stunning landscapes, making it an attractive option for travellers seeking a mix of adventure and heritage.
“With the high season just around the corner, South Africa has a unique opportunity to showcase its hospitality and attract more travellers from around the world. By adopting inclusive marketing strategies and emphasising the country's unique offerings, South Africa can reinforce its position as a top destination for tourists from the Middle East and beyond.”
Sojern, a leading travel marketing platform designed to boost growth and profitability for the travel industry, expanded into the South African market in H1 2022 to support the market's travel recovery amidst a growing demand for digital marketing solutions. To discover more about how Sojern can assist the South African travel industry in leveraging the latest marketing technology to drive direct bookings, increase web traffic, establish loyalty programs, and more - powered by AI technology and delivering real-time insights, measurement, and analytics - please visit Sojern’s website.
*Data pulled as of the end of October 2023
Sojern is a leading travel marketing platform designed to boost growth and profitability for the travel industry. The Sojern Travel Marketing Platform is a set of easy-to-use software and services that delivers unrivalled traveler insight, intelligent audiences, multichannel activation and optimisation, and a connected guest experience—all in one place. More than 10,000 travel marketers rely on our platform annually to find, attract, convert and engage travellers. Founded in 2007, Sojern is headquartered in San Francisco, California with teams in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific.