South Africans flock to these five places 

South African travellers are flocking to Dubai and Mauritius, with tourism bouncing back strongly following its pandemic hiatus. 

This was revealed by Mastercard’s Economics Institute, which published a report focused on global travel in 2024 using the company’s consumer spending data. 

The institute launched in 2020 to analyse macroeconomic trends through consumer spending by tapping into Mastercard’s worldwide payment network. 

A team of economists, analysts, and data scientists draws on Mastercard insights and third-party data to deliver regular reports on economic issues to key customers, partners, and policymakers.

The report said that consumer spending on travel is robust this year, with significant increases in passenger traffic. 

Despite fluctuating exchange rates and varying affordability levels, South Africans’ desire to travel remains stronger than ever. 

To calculate the top trending destinations for South Africans, the institute analyses flight booking data for each destination and then compares this to their typical levels. 

The destinations with the most significant gains are deemed to be trending. In recent months, Dubai, Mauritius, Istanbul, Frankfurt, and Nairobi have been South African travellers’ top five trending destinations. 

Over the past 12 months, Japan and Ireland have been the global frontrunners for travel destinations. Japan has grown in popularity due to its currency significantly weakening, making it more attractive for travellers. 

Italy and Spain came in at four and five, respectively, and have enjoyed strong demand from travellers worldwide for warm, sunny climates.

Mastercard said Munich ranks as the top trending destination for the next three months, given the European Football Championship is being hosted in Germany. 

African tourism is booming

While South Africans are flocking overseas, people worldwide continue to travel to Africa and increasingly spend more time there. 

“The travel sector in Africa is recovering well, complemented by an appetite to discover destinations that offer nature, culture, and authentic experiences,” said the institute’s chief economist, Natalia Lechmanova. 

In addition, growing digitalisation is driving greater convenience for tourists visiting Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The fast growth in adopting digital payments has also meant a lower reliance on cash in the region, resulting in shifts in spending patterns within tourism.

 According to Mastercard Economics Institute estimates, the percentage of tourism cash volumes measured by ATM withdrawals dropped to the lowest point on record in 2024.

While domestically, most digital payments across the region are made through mobile money payments, travellers rely on their cards to make payments in the region more than ever before. 

This has led to a boom in tourism in Africa, with international tourist arrivals exceeding pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the first quarter of 2024. 

During the first quarter of 2024, South Africa welcomed 2.4 million visitors from the rest of the world, representing a 15.4% increase compared to the same period in 2023. 

Mauritius recorded a 16% increase over the same period. In 2023, tourist arrivals to Tanzania increased by 24.3% to a record-breaking 1.8 million. 

Mastercard’s data also revealed that tourists in South Africa are extending their trips by almost two extra days compared to pre-pandemic. 

The global average is one extra day, a trend driven by warmer climates and affordable destinations. 

The report found a clear inverse relationship between the price of the destination and the incremental number of days tourists spend while in those destinations. In other words, the cheaper the destination, the longer the stay.


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