South Africa’s removal from the UK’s travel red list on 7 October has resulted in a flood of enquiries and bookings for The Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG). On 8 October, the group saw its revenue for October shoot up by 89% across its leisure brands.

In the hours and days following the announcement, the UK overtook Mauritius and Dubai as the most booked international destination for South Africans.

Flight Centre Travel Group MD Middle East And Africa - Andrew Stark “We have been inundated with enquiries for travel to the UK since the long-overdue announcement by the British government on Thursday evening,” says Andrew Stark, Flight Centre Travel Group MD. “There’s been a massive spike in enquiries and bookings across our retail travel booking channels and brands, including on our website, in our Flight Centre stores and through Flight Centre Independent.

“Over the weekend our network of 48 shops and 350 travel professionals were flooded with walk-ins and website enquiries.

“Due to the pent-up demand we have seen in recent weeks, Flight Centre South Africa will soon become the first Flight Centre globally to open a new brick and mortar store since the start of the pandemic. We’re incredibly excited and will release details soon.”

“Our mobile app was also hugely popular with overall website traffic up by 50% since the announcement. We saw the same spike across SME business travel,” adds Stark.

“The number of new air tickets issued from South Africa with London as the final destination has increased fivefold since the 7th of October,” says Sue Garrett, General Manager Supply, Pricing and Marketing at the Flight Centre Travel Group. “The majority of air tickets booked have been for departure in November and December 2021. We estimate that many of these bookings are for South Africans finally making plans to reunite with family and friends over the December and January holidays.”

“The UK is one of our biggest markets as an outbound travel company, so it’s a huge sigh of relief from a cost perspective. We are hopeful that the news will bring additional air supply into the market,” Stark reported last week, adding that this signals good news for the customer in terms of pricing and availability. Stark added that due to the reciprocal business between South Africa and the UK, this is also “great news for SMMEs and multinational companies.”

Flight Centre Travel Group Oz Desai GM “London has always been a popular route for both South African leisure and business travellers with Heathrow recognised as one of the top international airports for corporate traffic originating from South Africa. The fact that vaccinated South Africans can now travel freely to the UK, which is one of our top business destinations, is likely to significantly boost business travel between the two countries,” said Oz Desai, GM Corporate Traveller.

“Currently there are 123 African or Africa-focussed corporates listed or trading in London, more than on any other international exchange. A great number of SA businesses have also set up headquarters in the UK to tap into the global trade opportunities. For these companies, it’s imperative that a seamless travel regime between the UK and South Africa is re-established,” Desai added.

“We thank our valued customers for their patience and business at this time as we handle the extremely high call and enquiry volumes. We’d encourage customers to book on our online booking platforms – or the mobile app. Our Experts are also able to assist if you’d prefer to visit a Flight Centre retail outlet,” concludes Stark.

More than 123 countries around the globe are already open (with varying conditions in place) to South African travellers.

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