South Africans eager to travel despite global uncertainties- Flight Centre Expo Reveals

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Flight Centre has revealed it issued travel quotes to the value of R140 million in just one weekend, proving that South Africans are eager to travel despite the weak exchange rate and coronavirus concerns. Travel Expo sales reached over R50 million. Over 100,000 travellers participated in the Flight Centre Travel Group’s pop-up Travel Expo over the weekend.

“South Africans are incredibly resilient and continue to look for bargain travel deals,” said Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa MD, Andrew Stark. “The weekend’s Travel Expo showed us that there’s still a massive appetite among South Africans to travel, especially if they can get a good deal.”

For the first time, the 10th annual Travel Expo, the largest consumer travel show in Southern Africa, popped up nationwide with deals available at all 121 Flight Centre and Cruiseabout stores across the country, as well as online.

Local travel flies off the shelves

While the vast majority (80%) of flight bookings made during the Travel Expo were international travel bookings, domestic travel bookings showed the strongest growth. Local flights booking were up over 130% from the previous year, while overall domestic travel bookings showed an increase of over 50%.

“South Africa came up head and shoulders above all international destinations both in terms of packages and flights sold, with Cape Town in the top spot, followed by Johannesburg and Durban,” said Stark.  

African travel and Indian Ocean Islands remain popular

Flight Centre’s top-selling destinations for flight bookings following South Africa, were the UK, Mauritius, Australia and New Zealand. Top-selling packages were Mauritius, Zanzibar, Victoria Falls and Bali.

Other popular international destinations this year were Greece, Canada and Turkey. Bookings to Greece increased by over 60% while Canada showed over 110% growth. Turkey holiday sales were up by over 50%.

Although sales for Mauritius declined compared to the previous year, the island remains a popular destination for South Africans.

“Our best-selling products were Sun Resorts properties [in Mauritius]i.e. Long Beach, Sugar Beach, Ambre and La Pirogue as well as the Veranda properties,” reported Ramesh Jeenarain, Managing Director World Leisure Holidays.

“This year’s Flight Centre Travel Expo was again a success for Beachcomber,” said Joanne Visagie, Sales and Marketing Director Beachcomber SA. “Bookings came in from all corners of the country. Victoria Beachcomber Resort & Spa reported the most bookings. The Expo was well organised by Flight Centre; and provided a great awareness platform that boosted sales.”

Cruising and touring

Although Indonesia and Thailand are usually top sellers for Flight Centre, these destinations were outperformed by cruising and touring this year.

Especially cruising proved popular with cruise sales seeing an increase of 30%.

“One of our feature offers was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime deal on a bucket list travel dream to see the northern lights in Norway onboard a Hurtigruten cruise,” said Jackie Adami, Managing Director at Development Promotions. “Our sales revenue was up 45% compared to 2019, making it one of our best travel expos in recent years.”

Also, guided holiday tours have become a popular option for many South Africans.

Alex Gonsalves, On The Go Tours General Manager South Africa and the Middle East, reported that Turkey was a bestseller for guided holiday tours. “Our biggest seller over the Expo period was Turkey, and I think this was due to the 50% discount we had offered on this tour, easy accessibility from a flight point of view and the ease of applying for the ETA visa.”

“We look forward to Flight Centre’s Travel Expo every year and it has become a highlight in our sales and marketing calendar,” said Brownyn Strydom, Marketing Manager for The Travel Corporation (TTC). “This year presented a few challenges with the current Coronavirus outbreak being one, but I know that TTC’s focused messaging and 100-year reputation for stability and experience were key factors in securing bookings.

South Africans undeterred by global events

South Africans are still travelling despite uncertain global conditions.

“As a travel company, we have a responsibility to always be at the forefront of giving our customers factual information,” said Kim Taylor, Customer Experience Director at the Flight Centre Travel Group. We take great guidance from reputable organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the NICD. Our responsibility is to support customers by making them aware of their options and ensure they are informed at all times.”

Travel insurance is now more important than ever, she adds.

Travel Expo 2020 accessible for all

Flight Centre Travel Group changed the format of the show this year in response to requests by customers to make deals more accessible to all South Africans and not just those living in Johannesburg. 

The change in concept was welcomed by suppliers across the country.

“The change in format from a physical Expo to an in-store offering was a challenge but overall we were pleased with the bookings with Johannesburg proving to be the strongest booking region,” said Strydom.

“Whilst we missed interacting with the customer, it was more productive, allowing our team to fulfil the needs of the Flight Centre consultants. It was great to have our different products distributed through over a hundred stores, instead of one venue,” added Adami.

“Our new Travel Expo concept made it easier for customers to book the over 500 unbeatable deals in-store or book flights online without having to physically attend the event at the Dome,” said Stark.

“By extending the expo across South Africa it certainly expanded the coverage and reach. Clients in locations outside Johannesburg were very grateful that their local Flight Centre store could assist them with Expo specials, thus creating a sense of inclusivity for the clients,” agreed Jeenarain.

“We’ve improved the customer experience by removing the cost of attending the event, making it easy for loyal customers to book with their favourite consultant and removed the need to queue,” added Stark. 

“I think the Expo’s success is that South Africans truly were getting 500-plus exclusive travel deals and that there was something for everyone. These sales bode well for travel and tourism in and from South Africa, proving that South Africans are resilient and continue to look for bargain travel deals,” concluded Stark.

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