/ 2 September 2008

I believe I can fly

Results of the MasterCard Worldwide Consumer Lifestyles survey have revealed that more South Africans continue to plan holidays and business-related trips abroad.

The survey also revealed that these consumers intend to spend more than they did the last time they travelled.

The survey is part of the bi-annual MasterCard Worldwide Index of Consumer Confidence, a MasterCard Worldwide survey across eight markets in the South Asia, Middle East and Africa (Samea) region.

The markets surveyed include South Africa, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The survey seeks to understand perceptions, choices and concerns that people have with different lifestyle choices.

When asked if they plan to travel abroad by air in the next 12 months for personal and/or business reasons, 73% of the South Africans said that they intended to. This is up from a year ago (70%), and two years ago (42%).

Of those with plans to travel for personal reasons, half said that they intended to spend more than the last time, while 68% of those travelling for business planned to spend more. In fact, they plan to spend more with about 60% saying they anticipated spending between 26% and 100% more.

Although more South Africans appear to be travelling abroad, they are not all going to the same destinations.

In one year the United States has surpassed the United Kingdom as the South African market’s destination. This may be owing to the comparative cost advantage the US enjoys over Europe and the availability of direct flights.

Europe, however, as a whole, is the most popular destination. Of those with plans to travel overseas in the next 12 months, just more than half said that they planned to visit a European country.

South Africans seem to agree on the airline they prefer. Of those who said that they plan to fly overseas in the next 12 months, about half said SAA.

Although this is down from the first half of 2007, (57%), the carrier retains a lead over the second preferred airline, British Airways.

The reasons given, however, have changed. A year ago, a quarter of those with plans to travel abroad said that it was to support the national carrier. Though roughly the same percentage still reports this as a factor, South Africans now appear to be more concerned with a carrier’s safety record, direct and convenient routes it provides and the affordability of its tickets.

When it comes to paying for their expenses while abroad, South Africans are increasingly showing a preference for credit and debit cards. This comes at the expense of travellers’ cheques and foreign exchange.

As they were for all but one of the other seven Samea markets, security and safety issues were the greatest concerns for South Africans.

South Africa, however, was unique in that almost a third of those with plans to travel abroad said that they were concerned about not being able to get the right kind of food.