Flight Centre Unveils South African Travel Trends For 2023

Flight Centre released its ‘Year in Travel’ report, offering insights into the travel patterns and preferences of South Africans throughout the year 2023.


  • In the dynamic landscape of travel, 2023 emerged as a year marked not only by the return to familiar destinations but also by an exploration of new and unforgettable experiences.
  • The Travel Trends report delves into various facets of travel, ranging from the types of travellers to the destinations that captured their hearts.
  • One notable trend was the rise of solo female travellers, indicating a shift in travel demographics.
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In terms of demographics, Flight Centre’s typical customer in 2023 resembled figures like Sofia Vergara or Cameron Diaz—a 50 to 59-year-old woman traveling solo to iconic cities like London or Johannesburg. While solo travellers comprised 38% of bookings, couples were close behind at 22%, families at 6%, and small group bookings at 6%. The variety of travel preferences showcased the diversity of South African travellers.

Traditional favourites, Mauritius and Dubai, regained their popularity as favoured holiday destinations, and 4-star accommodations stood out as the preferred choice. While trawling through our year’s data in search of fun facts and intriguing trends, we uncovered some interesting travel patterns that emerged in 2023.

// General Manager of Flight Centre South Africa, Antoinette Turner


The report unveils a list of top international destinations where South Africans ventured in 2023. Mauritius secured the top spot, followed by Dubai, Thailand, Zanzibar, and the USA. The allure of international travel was evident, with 86% of air bookings dedicated to exploring global destinations.


Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure are must see destinations. The new park, Universal Epic Universe, is an upcoming theme park under construction. Image: The Sandton Times

For international flights, London emerged as the most popular destination, closely followed by Mauritius, Dubai, Phuket, and Bali. Domestic air travel, representing 14% of bookings, showcased preferences for Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), and George.


In a year marked by budget considerations, Flight Centre identified destinations where the South African rand could go further. Mauritius, Japan, Turkey, Thailand, and Hungary were highlighted as places where the exchange rate favoured budget-savvy travellers. However, the report emphasized that choosing a holiday destination involves more than just the exchange rate, considering factors like affordable food, accommodation, and visa fees.


Grab a drink at one of the pools at Le Méridien Ile Maurice or take a day trip to L’Aventure du Sucre when visiting Mauritius. Image: The Sandton Times

The report also shed light on some unique travel choices made by Flight Centre customers. The northernmost destination booked was Longyearbyen on the Norwegian island of Svalbard, within the Arctic Circle. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the southernmost destination visited was Ushuaia, the capital of the Tierra del Fuego region in southern Argentina.


Flight Centre’s data presented some interesting statistics, showcasing the diversity of travel experiences. Clients hired a total of 1’407 cars, and the largest overseas hotel booking was a stay at Atlantis The Royal in Dubai. On the domestic front, the largest hotel booking was at Kapama River Lodge in Hoedspruit’s Kapama Private Game Reserve. Notably, the longest hotel stay was 21 days, while the shortest was less than a day.


The Atlantis The Royal Resort is the latest hotel addition to the Dubai skyline, adding to the rich portfolio of attractions the city has on offer. Image: The Atlantis The Royal Resort

Small group tours experienced a 20% increase in bookings compared to 2022, reflecting a growing trend toward curated travel experiences. These tours, costing an average of R69’157, attracted adults in their 50’s, showcasing a desire for more structured and immersive journeys.


Solo travel emerged as a significant trend, with solo female travellers taking the lead. The average age of solo travellers was 52, and 68% of these trips were international. Noteworthy destinations for solo travelers included London, Rome, Mauritius, Dubai, and Windhoek.


Norwegian Viva is the second ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Prima Class and is sister to Norwegian Prima. They will be joined by Norwegian Aqua, sailing in 2025. Image: The Sandton Times

On the cruise front, the average age of cruise customers was 51.5 years old, contributing to the increasing popularity of cruising in 2023. South Africans favoured balcony rooms (31.92%) and interior rooms (23.79%), with most cruises departing from Cape Town and Durban. The top global cruise ports visited included Rome, Barcelona, Venice, and Southampton.


As 2024 approaches, Flight Centre anticipates a continued interest in first-time travel experiences. Solo travel, tours to destinations like Peru and Vietnam, and bucket list cruises are expected to be prominent choices for travellers. The top international destinations for 2024 include Mauritius, Dubai, Phuket, Bali, Ras Al Khaimah, Zanzibar, the Maldives, Paris, Venice, and Singapore.


Namibia, where the ocean meets the desert, offers an extreme contrasting natural adventure and is next-door to South Africa. Image: The Sandton Times

Flight Centre’s report also highlighted visa-free destinations, providing hassle-free options for travellers. Mauritius, Namibia, Thailand, Mozambique, Seychelles, The Bahamas, Ireland, Argentina, Botswana, and Singapore were listed as the top picks for those seeking a relaxing holiday without the need for visas.


Flight Centre’s ‘Year in Travel’ report for 2023 paints a vibrant picture of South African travel preferences, showcasing a blend of traditional favourites and a growing interest in unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences.


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