In a world where travel planning is increasingly characterised by widespread digital transformations, understanding the unique habits of different demographics and nationalities has become incredibly important.

 This blog post provides an in-depth view into how South Africans plan and book their vacations, focusing on insights and trends that will be useful to businesses and understanding consumer behaviour.

Our analysis, based on reliable statistics from YouGov, delivers a data-driven, professional examination of key trends and their strategic implications. 

Trends and Preferences

Drawing from insights offered by BizCommunity, it’s clear that South African travellers are charting new paths in both how and where they choose to travel. The growing emphasis on sustainability reflects a collective shift towards more environmentally responsible travel decisions. Coupled with the integration of digital solutions for planning and booking, South Africans are reshaping the travel experience to be both convenient and budget conscious.

A significant trend among South African travellers is the move away from luxury towards value-for-money experiences. This shift signals an adaptation to economic pressures without compromising on the richness of the travel experience. 

Within South Africa, popular destinations include the vibrant cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as natural wonders like the Kruger National Park and the scenic Garden Route. These spots remain firm favourites among locals for their diverse offerings that cater to a range of interests.

As we delve further into the preferences and trends shaping South African travel habits, it becomes evident that the landscape is evolving. Accessibility, sustainability, and the search for authentic experiences are key themes driving the choices of South African travellers today.

Spending Habits on Vacations

South African travellers showcase a range of payment preferences on their international escapades, and their spending habits domestically follow interesting patterns too. YouGov data illustrates how they pay for their expenses while vacationing abroad:

  • Cash: 40.00%
  • Debit card: 34.61%
  • Credit card: 34.37%
  • Online payments: 27.47%
  • Travellers’ checks: 15.97%
  • Pre-paid credit card: 14.90%

The preference for cash might stem from an inclination towards straightforward budgeting and avoiding foreign transaction fees. Debit and credit cards are nearly equally embraced due to their extensive acceptability and the security they offer. 

40.27% agree that they try to shop Duty-Free at airports/train stations over main shops for better deals, highlighting a strategically savvy shopping preference that factors into their spending habits while abroad.

According to data from Old Mutual, domestic travel expenses offer additional insights into what South African tourists spend their money on:

  • Road transport: 27%
  • Air transport: 15%
  • Accommodation: 14%
  • Restaurants: 5%
  • Recreational activities: 3%

This breakdown attests to the priority South Africans place on transportation within their domestic travel budget, significantly outweighing the expenses allocated for accommodations, dining, and activities. 

Domestic vs. International Travel

Digging into South African travel habits further, we turn our attention to the frequency of domestic and international travel for individuals over the last year. An interesting trend emerges that reveals a stronger penchant for exploring their home country as compared to venturing abroad.

When asked about the number of times they travelled within their country in the last 12 months, here were the top responses:

  • Three times: 21.43%
  • Two times: 18.18%
  • Five or more times: 15.86%
  • Four times: 9.26%
  • One time: 8.33%

There is a higher frequency of domestic trips as compared to international ones. In reference to trips taken abroad in the past year, the statistics uncover the following:

  • Three times: 15.16%
  • Two times: 13.83%
  • One time: 9.81%
  • Five or more times: 8.46%
  • Four times: 7.36%

The difference in domestic and international trips could be influenced by several factors—economic considerations, time constraints, or simply a deep-rooted interest in exploring one’s backyard first. Supportingly, more than half of the respondents (56.09%) acknowledged that they prefer to vacation in their home country rather than travel abroad.

Ultimately, these trends shed light on South Africans’ strong affinity for exploring familiar grounds. While travelling abroad continues to have its unique charm, the attractiveness and ease of travelling within one’s own country significantly influence South Africans’ decisions on travel.

Vacation Activities: What South Africans Prefer

When it comes to selecting vacation activities, South Africans have shown that their choices are as diverse as their vibrant culture. From a strong interest in active adventures to a curiosity for cultural immersion, there’s a broad range of preferences that explain what makes an ideal holiday for travellers from this nation.

Active and Organised Adventures

An impressive 74.91% of South Africans agree that including some form of physical activity is essential to their holiday experience. This points to a strong interest in vacations that aren’t just about relaxation but also involve engaging the body, whether through hiking, swimming, cycling, or any number of adventurous outdoor activities.

Moreover, 62.58% express a preference for holidays where activities are organised for them. This suggests that beyond the thrill of physical endeavours, there’s an appreciation for well-structured itineraries that remove the hassle of planning and ensure a seamless travel experience. 

Cultural Immersion

Peeling back another layer of South African travel desires reveals a profound respect and interest in cultural experiences. An overwhelming 79.69% of participants believe that truly understanding a country involves immersing oneself in its culture. This viewpoint underscores a significant interest in culture-focused holidays, highlighting a desire to connect with and appreciate the essence of a destination beyond just its landscapes or leisure activities.

Planning, Budgeting, and Deals

South Africans display a strategic approach when it comes to planning their vacations, with cost and affordability taking centre stage. According to TGM Research, 52% consider cost and affordability the most crucial when planning international trips.

For more extended vacations and even short breaks, a significant 60% prefer to book outside of school holidays, demonstrating a savvy understanding of peak travel periods and their link to inflated prices.

Sticking to a budget is also a common thread, with 60.47% affirming they adhere to a strict budget during their holidays. Despite this frugal mindset, they are enthusiastic planners – 75.53% already have at least one destination in mind when planning their next holiday, and 74.20% enjoy the process of researching and planning their trips.

In search of value, 43.53% usually wait for last-minute deals, with 39.05% of respondents stating they would never consider taking a package holiday. This reluctance could be linked to a desire for freedom in customising their travel experiences and making better budget-related decisions.

In summary, South Africans demonstrate a strategic approach to travel, leveraging timing, extensive planning, and budgeting to maximise value for money. It paints a picture of vacation-goers who enjoy not only the travel experience but also the meticulous process that leads up to it.


Our exploration into the travel habits and preferences of South Africans has revealed several interesting trends. There’s a clear passion for domestic travel, a keen interest in vacations filled with physical activities and deep cultural immersion, and a strategic approach to holiday planning and budgeting.

These insights offer travel industry businesses the opportunity to better cater to South African travellers. Travel agencies could design flexible packages that blend adventurous and cultural experiences, while emphasising value for money to appeal to budget-conscious travellers. 

Similarly, transport companies might focus on promoting off-peak travel options and flexibility in booking to cater to the strategic planning tendencies of South African tourists.

For destination marketers, attracting South African travellers could involve showcasing unique cultural experiences and active adventures, with a focus on affordability and value. At the same time, investing in comprehensive and user-friendly online platforms for research and booking can simplify the planning process and help make the decision-making more effortless.

The conclusion of these exploratory insights suggests there are numerous ways for industry players to better align with the unique preferences of South African travellers, ultimately creating more meaningful travel experiences for this dynamic market.