Wanderlust is back in a big way, and South African travellers are planning their 2023 getaways. According to travel industry experts, a handful of international destinations are already emerging as trending spots for next year. So, whether you’re dreaming of a beach break or a unique city escape, here’s a look at what’s on the map for South Africans in 2023.
A new generation of South African travellers has begun exploring Belgium, thanks to the reintroduction of direct flights between the two countries after more than 20 years. “Air Belgium’s twice-weekly flights between Brussels, Johannesburg and Cape Town, which we introduced in September 2022, have already led to a spike in visitors from South Africa,” says Emmanuel Menu, CCO of Air Belgium.
Why visit: There’s a lot to love about Brussels, the capital of Europe. Compared to its close cousins Amsterdam and Paris, it’s smaller and less well-known. Still, it can hold its own with art, delicious local cuisine, unique museums, fantastic summer festivals, vibrant nightlife and beautiful architecture. And did we mention chocolate, beer, and waffles on tap?
March through May is a great time to travel, says Menu. “During these months, the weather is pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 8 to 17 degrees Celsius. It’s also a great time for sightseeing, as there are fewer crowds, and you’re more likely to get good hotel deals,” he says. “What’s more is that Belgium is at the heart of Europe. Travellers can catch a quick train or a flight and seamlessly visit France, the Netherlands, Germany or even Italy or Switzerland.”
Koh Mak, Thailand
As always, South Africans will enjoy travelling to Thailand this year, confirms Bianca Mazur, GM Flight Centre South Africa. The country has a lot to offer, including good value and great choice. “Thailand will shine this year and again underpin its popularity as an affordable option for the budget-conscious South African traveller,” says Bianca.
Bangkok and the well-known islands will always be popular, but demand for destinations conscious of protecting resources and the environment has changed. A recent study by Statista found that 81 percent of travellers worldwide consider sustainable travel important. The Tourism Association of Thailand (TAT) is making encouraging moves to prioritise sustainability – a philosophy that environmentally conscious travellers from South Africa and beyond will appreciate.
Why visit: TAT promotes Koh Mak in Trat province as Thailand’s first low-carbon destination. The island, which was closed to tourists until 1985 and is home to the magnificent Ao Kao and Ao Suan Yai beaches, is largely privately owned by five families who carefully manage its development.
Manchester, United Kingdom
According to Antoinette Turner, General Manager at Flight Centre, London was the most popular destination for South Africans in 2022, but Manchester snuck into second place among the most visited British cities. It’s quickly gaining a reputation as one of the coolest cities in the country.
Turner explains that the popularity of the United Kingdom among South African travellers is related to the close relationship between the two countries, which means there are often family and friends living there that South Africans want to visit. “But the UK also has a lot to offer culturally, historically and scenically, and those travelling for business or family also want to explore other cities in the UK if possible,” she says.
Why visit: Move over London’s British Museum. We’re looking forward to the return of the Manchester Museum in 2023, which has undergone a £15 million makeover. The museum will open with an exhibition on the Golden Mummies of Egypt, which will be bucket-list stuff for many South African visitors.
Le Morne, Mauritius
The Indian Ocean island experienced a bumper December. No wonder, then, that it’s on the hit list of South African travellers who missed the boat during the high season. “Mauritius is perennially popular with South Africans, offering options for every budget, and world-class accommodation to suit all tastes and a variety of activities, from water sports and golf to hiking and mountain biking,” says Sean Kritzinger, Executive Chairman of the GILTEDGE Group.
Why visit: Mauritius was named the leading destination for adventure tourism in the Indian Ocean at the 2022 World Travel Awards (WTA) and attracts more than just beach lovers to its shores. Hiking is becoming increasingly popular with travellers looking to add a touch of adrenaline to their holiday. Basing oneself at Le Morne on the far southwestern tip of Mauritius and you’ll be right on the doorstep of Le Morne Brabant, the island’s most preserved and wildest mountain – and there are plenty of resorts nearby with idyllic beaches for a perfectly balanced holiday.
New York, USA
About 60% of business travellers expand their work trips to business travel, says Lance Nkwe, Corporate Marketing Manager, Corporate Traveller. “Bleisure travel means workers can enjoy their holidays at reduced expenses. At the same time, this kind of travelling has been proven to be quite motivating for staff,” he says. While London is popular with South African travellers, Nkwe says New York is also a strong market for bleisure travel and he predicts it will shine in 2023.
Why visit: Exploring further than usual is often part of an extended business trip. Sightseeing, discovering culture and shopping are popular reasons to stay beyond one’s original plan. Adding a few days to a trip to New York City is definitely worthwhile when seeking out all this cosmopolitan city has to offer in its 24/7 lifestyle. From Broadway musicals and plays to evening visits of iconic landmarks such as Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, or 9/11 memorial there’s no shortage of activities available once business hours are done. Plus, NYC restaurants cater until late making it possible to sample all kinds of gastronomic delights too!