SA Cruise News

South Africans buying 35% more cruises in 2019 than last year says Flight Centre

Despite the rolling black outs and economic uncertainty plaguing South Africa, the country’s domestic cruise market is stronger than ever, according to the results of the annual Travel Expo in Johannesburg.

The expo saw a record-breaking 30,000 visitors over the two-day event and was hosted by the Flight Centre Travel Group.

South Africans are booking cruises in record numbers in 2019

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“Cruise sales have grown in popularity year on year and 2019 was no different, with cruise sales up 35% from last year,” said Andrew Stark, Flight Centre Travel Group Managing Director, Middle East and Africa.

Speaking to IOL, Stark said that South Africans are resilient and are still travelling, perhaps more than ever.

“We believe the strengthening rand and time of year played a part, and, that many South Africans feel, no matter what happens, they are going to get away on holiday,” he said.

Cruiseabout, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group, said that the Mediterranean and Italy in particular were the most popular cruise destinations for South Africans (after local roundtrip Durban itineraries).

But there were also more bookings for Scandinavian and Russian cruises than in previous years, as well as a bucket-list ‘Northern Lights’ cruise by the Norwegian cruise company, Hurtigruten.

Genoa in Italy – the country is one of the most popular fly-cruise destinations for South Africans says Flight Centre

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But, in a sign of the struggle many South Africans face in affording a cruise, especially a fly-cruise package to a foreign destination, there was also more interest in options for saving up.

This year’s Expo also saw a record number of signups for Flight Centre’s Stokvel club, a communal savings fund that enables members to leverage group buying power and save towards travel.

“We launched Stokvel in 2018 and saw a 48% increase in sign-ups at this year’s Expo,” said Lance Nkwe, Flight Centre Travel Group Business Leader – Emerging Markets.

AIDAmira will be the first mainstream (mass market) cruise ship ever to homeport in SA alongside MSC

While MSC Cruises dominates the local cruise scene in South Africa, it will face competition this year from German brand AIDA Cruises, which is homeporting in Cape Town for the first time.

While there are several cruise lines that homeport in Cape Town for roundtrip South African cruises, they are almost exclusively luxury and premium cruise lines, charging a cruise fare beyond the means of the average middle-class South Africa.

AIDA Cruises will be the first mainstream cruise line after MSC to base a ship in South Africa for a full season.

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