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Report: South Africa Receives Massive Travel Surge From Saudi Arabia

“Awareness of the Islamic calendar, offering alcohol-free options, and demonstrating cultural sensitivity are also essential when planning campaigns targeting visitors…”

Leading travel and marketing platform, Sojern, has, as of September 2023, published persuasive findings showing a travel boom to South Africa, with a particular emphasis on the expanding Saudi Arabian market.

The rise in visitors from Saudi Arabia was marked with a 187% increase in flight searches for the start of the high season in November year-on-year.

In contrast to September 2022, the data shows a vibrant and varied traveller atmosphere, highlighting the necessity of inclusive tourism to meet the particular requirements of Muslim tourists.

Following domestic travellers who made up 35% of all flight searches since the year’s beginning, South Africa is seeing a varied influx from key feeder markets, such as the US (24%), UK (6%), Germany (6%), and the Oceanic area (4%). However, Saudi Arabia, made a stunning comeback, ranking fifth and seventh, respectively, in terms of the number of searches for hotels and flights. This is consistent with predictions of a rise in Middle Eastern immigration, especially from Saudi Arabia, between 2023 and 2030 and shows a rising interest in South Africa’s varied landscapes, cultures, and experiences.

The report showed that there has been an increase in weekly flights and hotel accommodation searches, saying that the flight searches are currently on par with the pre-covid era in 2019. It was also revealed that with those searching for flights, 28% of them are targeting trips they plan to take within the next seven days, 25% of them are targeting and planning trips more than three months ahead.

The Managing Director MEA at Sojern, Stewart Smith said, “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.”

Also commenting on the matter, CEO of CrescentRating and HalalTrip, Fazal Behardeen, said, “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.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi