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AAfter the pandemic, domestic travel has rapidly recovered to pre-pandemic levels, reaching a 120% recovery rate in 2022. By the end of 2023, domestic trips had already reached over 130% of the 2019 level. While the number of domestic trips increased, the average length of stay remained constant at three days. Encouragingly, domestic spending in 2023 saw an increase of over 80% compared to spending in 2019. This exceptional performance demonstrates the resilience of the domestic market. A closer look at the preferences of domestic tourists provides valuable insights that will help the industry maintain this resilience and unlock further potential in the domestic market.

Exploring Domestic lifestyle and preferences

SA Tourism regularly studies domestic tourists' lifestyles and preferences to encourage and facilitate more domestic travel. This study helps to gain ongoing insight into the key strategic consumer segments within the domestic tourist population and to develop a comprehensive understanding of their travel requirements. Domestic lifestyle and preferences differ vastly between the major segments: build (those who travel for any purpose other than Holiday), convert ( those who travel for any purpose, but Holiday is not their primary purpose of travel), and defend (those who travel for any purpose and have Holiday as their primary purpose of travel). Understanding the evolution of domestic tourists and their differences across the three segments can be beneficial for the tourism industry. This section covers five key insights for industry growth across all three segments, focusing on domestic holiday travel.

The rise of domestic travel intent – Assessing the probability of domestic travel within the coming year, domestic tourists intend to travel more frequently, with travel intent sitting at over 80%. This travel intent is motivated by the domestic destinations’ beautiful scenery, relaxing beach or bush experiences, visiting family and friends, food and wine experiences, and variety of activities. Major barriers are higher priority expenses, health issues, insufficient time to travel, personal safety, and expensive accommodation and activities. The travel intent is higher for the convert segment (89%), followed by the build segment at 86%. Defend segment’s intent to travel is at 85%.

Understanding Domestic Travel Share of Wallet – Domestic tourists spend around 21% of their annual household income on recreational activities. The defend group spends more on such activities (21%) than the convert group (19%). 6% of domestic tourists' annual household income is allocated towards domestic holidays. This trend appears consistent across both the convert and defend segments.

Domestic Travel or International Travel? Although travel intent has remained consistently high, above 80%, around 27% of domestic holiday tourists have considered an international destination as an alternative while planning their domestic travel. The segment that is more likely to consider international holiday destinations is the convert segment, with 27% considering such destinations compared to the defend segment at 18%. The most popular regions considered are Europe, Asia, and Africa, while the most popular destinations are the USA, UK, UAE, and France. Domestic tourists consider international destinations because they desire to explore new cultures and fulfill their dreams of traveling beyond the borders of South Africa.

The load-shedding dilemma– The increasing prevalence of load-shedding is causing concerns about its impact on domestic travel. Load shedding will affect 62% of domestic tourists' future travel plans, specifically on how they travel, the areas they visit, and the activities they choose to undertake. Almost half of domestic tourists plan to be more selective in their travel destinations (46%) due to load shedding, while a few will postpone or cancel their trips (12%). Among the build segment, more than 70% of domestic tourists' future travel plans will be impacted by load shedding. Moreover, 55% of the defend segment and 53% of the convert segment's future domestic holiday plans will also be affected by it. For all segments, intermittent loss of internet connectivity and the unavailability of travel experiences and activities are the primary concerns. The persistence of load shedding will have a long-term impact on domestic tourists’ future travel prospects across all three segments. Due to this impact, travel intent is likely to decrease over time.

The Power of Insight-based Marketing Campaigns – More than 60% of domestic tourists recall seeing the SHO’T LEFT campaign on various platforms. This campaign was based on travel insights of domestic tourists. The recall of the campaign is exceptionally high among the build segment (71%), followed by convert (62%) and defend (61%). The campaign has influenced 29% of domestic holiday tourists' past travel decisions. Additionally, over 80% of domestic tourists have expressed their desire to travel within South Africa for holiday purposes in the future. The impact of marketing campaigns on future domestic holiday travel is high in the build segment (85%), followed by convert (82%). Furthermore, 77% of defend segment have expressed their interest in undertaking domestic holiday travel after seeing the marketing campaign.


The future of domestic travel

Undoubtedly, the performance of domestic tourism is expected to continue to yield better results in the future. The investment in insight-based marketing campaigns, coupled with the beautiful natural topographies and diverse experiences offered by domestic destinations, have been driving domestic travel in the past and will continue to do so in the future. However, the industry needs to make some adjustments to accommodate this potential growth. It is crucial to prioritise addressing concerns around how consumers travel differently because of load-shedding and the major barriers of domestic travel, particularly safety and security, and concerns over competing priorities on the domestic tourist’s share of wallet. As economic conditions such as rising costs and unemployment continue to change rapidly, the domestic travel market must keep a close eye on the domestic tourist's share of wallet. This will help respond appropriately to changing economic conditions that may potentially impact the growth of domestic tourism.

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