Fears over huge numbers at South Africa’s prime holiday destinations – But bookings are still very low

South Africans are expected to converge in large numbers across South Africa’s prime holiday destinations in December and January.

Recent spikes in new daily cases recorded in some of the country’s most popular tourist locations – including the Garden Route and Cape Town – have led to fears that the spread of COVID-19 may be accelerated.

However, according to at least two companies which handle accommodation bookings in some of these areas, demand for appears not to be as high as in 2019.

Metasearch bookings engine Trivago told MyBroadband that there had been no visible increase for accommodation bookings in South Africa in the last eight weeks, and that reservations were in fact trending slightly negative towards December.

“Some recent uplift in bookings can be observed for the week starting 24 November, but this trend does not hold to the next week,” the company said.

Trivago’s data showed that the average spend per night, total booking spend, and length of stay for bookings in the country were down significantly.

For example, the average spend on accommodation bookings between 1 and 7 December dropped from R4,600 to R2,695.

The graphs below show how Trivago’s bookings data for four weeks in 2020 compared to the same periods in 2019.

International travel an issue

SANParks General Manager of Revenue and Yield Joep Stevens told MyBroadband that although bookings at its parks had increased for December 2020, it was still 10% down when compared to the previous year.

He explained that almost half of the typical 6-7 million annual visitors to SANParks were international travellers.

“48.9% are from outside South Africa and therefore make up a significant portion of total,” Stevens said.

Table Mountain National Park weighs heavily as it accounts for nearly half of al total international guests – with 76% of visitors to the location being foreigners.

Guests to Parks (people through gates) was down 62.8% for October and 64.1% for November compared to the same months in 2019.

“As long as foreign tourists do not return, guests numbers will be severely impacted,” Stevens said.

While South Africa has lifted bans on travel from all countries around the world, the same may not be true for those various countries’ governments.

This means that their citizens may not be able to travel to the country.

One interesting trend the organisation had noticed in November was a 35.6% decrease in accommodation bookings while camping reservations shot up by 40.6%.

Most popular destinations

Stevens said that the usual SANParks locations are again in demand – including the coastal parks in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, as well as Kruger, Kgalagadi, Addo, Mountain Zebra and Karoo national parks.

However, these locations were not yet fully booked, he indicated.

Trivago provided a list of the most popular destinations for bookings made through its platform for stays between 15 December 2020 and 15 January 2021.

Interestingly, Durban received the highest number of bookings for the period – with 25% of reservations made from 10 November to 9 December.

Cape Town and Umhlanga followed –  with 6% of the total bookings each – while Johannesburg and Hartbeespoort each claimed 4% of the bookings.

Below are the top 15 South African locations for which bookings were made on Trivago.

  1. Durban
  2. Cape Town
  3. Umhlanga
  4. Johannesburg
  5. Hartbeespoort
  6. East London
  7. Hazyview
  8. Pretoria
  9. Colesberg
  10. Sun City
  11. Polokwane
  12. Knysna
  13. Port Elizabeth
  14. Langebaan
  15. Pietermaritzburg

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Fears over huge numbers at South Africa’s prime holiday destinations – But bookings are still very low