South Africa’s tourism industry has rebounded to above pre-pandemic levels, with bookings in the first ten months of 2023 exceeding those in the same period in 2019.
This was revealed by NightsBridge, a technology company that links accommodation establishments to the websites that sell their rooms.
NightsBridge has the largest inventory of bed nights in Africa, with over 10,000 properties in 41 countries.
It said the tourism industry in South Africa has significantly grown since the onset of COVID lockdowns in 2020.
Data compiled by NightsBridge shows a clear upward trend, with total bookings from January to October 2023 exceeding those from the same period in 2019 by 7.4%.
This increase indicates that the industry has not only rebounded from the impacts of the pandemic but is also experiencing expansion beyond pre-pandemic levels.
Analysis of consistent data from 4,122 NightsBridge clients since January 2019 illustrates a 9.4% year-over-year increase in bookings from 2022 to 2023.
Online bookings, in particular, have shown substantial growth, with a 17.3% rise compared to pre-pandemic figures.
The rise in online bookings suggests that consumer behaviour has shifted more towards digital solutions, a trend accelerated by the pandemic but sustained by the convenience and efficiency of online platforms.
NightsBridge’s data supports evidence from Airbnb that tourism has rapidly rebounded in South Africa and has surpassed 2019 levels.
Airbnb’s regional lead for Middle East Africa, Velma Corcoran, said the platform has seen a 33% increase in domestic travel from 2019 to 2023.
The company has doubled its contribution to South Africa’s GDP since 2019, and the economic benefit has not been concentrated in the country’s main tourism hotspots.
According to a report from Genesis Analytics, the service contributed more than R23.5 billion to the economy and created almost 50,000 jobs in 2022.
News24 recently reported that there are currently more Airbnb sites in Cape Town than in Amsterdam, San Francisco and Singapore combined.
Inside Airbnb estimated that there are around 21,000 Airbnbs in Cape Town alone.
Corcoran said Airbnb’s influence is not limited to South Africa’s main tourist hubs like Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
She said seven of the platform’s ten fastest-growing places are outside the country’s main tourism hotspots.
Corcoran said the economic benefit is also not limited to wealthy South Africans, as their data shows Airbnb is often used as a lifeline Lifeline for ordinary South Africans trying to make ends meet.
According to Corcoran, 50% of hosts say they are hosting to afford the rising cost of living, and typical South African hosts make around R33,000 from Airbnb a year.