Flight Centre recently conducted a survey to find out how Covid has changed the way South Africans travel. For those in the accommodation game, it’s worth noting that booking flexibility is one of the major concerns for the year ahead.

The survey reveals that flexibility to cancel or change a booking is now a non-negotiable. 31% of respondents reported that they won’t book a trip unless they know they can cancel or postpone it easily and get their money back, while 21% said they would like to travel but were hesitant with all the complexities. Another 15% said they were not sure if they’re comfortable travelling just yet, while 13% said they were already travelling; it just takes more planning. Only 9% of respondents said they wouldn’t travel until vaccinated.

Flexibility beats health protocols for international travel

Price is no longer the most significant factor of consideration for South Africans. The flexibility to cancel or change their booking without paying penalties; health and safety protocols; and the destination’s entry requirements (for example, will I have to quarantine?) are now the three most important factors that South African travellers would consider before travelling internationally.

Companies that stated a clear and transparent cancellation and refund process, the destination’s current COVID-19 cases and how safe it’s perceived to be followed as other factors for consideration.

“While our borders have been open for some time, domestic travel on both the business and leisure fronts will remain in high demand for the next two years,” said Andrew Stark, Managing Director Flight Centre Travel Group Middle East and Africa. “Leisure travel will boom before corporate travel. No doubt there will be significant pent-up demand as the world gets vaccinated and when international flight schedules resume fully, and borders reopen without entry regulations such as enforced quarantines.”

Stark adds that international travel remains complex, although the group has been seeing interest and bookings to the Maldives and Zanzibar, countries that remain open to South African travellers at this time.

Local travel considerations

For local travellers, health and safety protocols are neck and neck with the flexibility to cancel or change bookings. Just 16% said they would consider the destination’s current COVID-19 cases and how ‘safe’ the destination is perceived to be, spelling good news for local destinations perhaps perceived as “hotspot” areas.

“Flexible booking is now a key consideration” says Sue Garrett, Flight Centre Travel Group’s General Manager for Product and Marketing. “We have expanded our popular Moneyback Guarantee to all local accommodation bookings. All customers need to do is contact their Flight Centre travel expert, in writing 24 hours before the intended check-in date, and we will refund the accommodation booking immediately, no questions asked.”

Only 14% of respondents pumped for the price as the most important deciding factor for their holiday, 9% opted for the destination or experience itself, with only 5% saying the most important factor would be how long it takes to get there.

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