South Africa is keen to attract more first-time visitors in 2024, which currently make up only around 40% of its total arrivals.
For it to succeed in its aim, Regional General Manager: Europe Ian Utermohlen said agents were key.
“Going into 2024, we will be targeting first-timers, which means that we need agents to sell South Africa.”
Currently, around 60% of visitors to South Africa book with an agent, and Ian said anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers are increasing.
Total UK visitor numbers to South Africa for the first nine months of this year reached 252,000, which wasup 36% on 2022, but down 18% on 2019.
High air fares are a factor holding back further growth, said Ian, but if existing flights are filled he’s confident the airlines will add capacity, which should bring down prices.
At an average of £750 – £800 return, flights are typically 25% to 30% more expensive than pre-pandemic, said Ian.
“The airlines have to try to get back the money they lost, but hopefully this season British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will recoup more of their losses and then I am hoping to get more rotations,” he added.
He is especially keen for BA to relaunch its service to Durban, once a popular short-break destination from the UK.
“Our challenge is to prove there is superior demand for South Africa from the UK and share that data with the airlines,” added Ian. “Once we get more flights, I think the fares will come down.”
In the meantime, agents should stress to clients that while air fares might be higher than previously, the cost of living in South Africa is low compared to the UK, said Ian.
“They can have an exceptional steak and a bottle of wine for £20 to £25,” he said. “What we offer is affordable luxury, so people can eat and drink food and wine that they simply can’t afford in the UK.”