FlySafair wants longer weekends to promote travel – and aims to move public holidays

Business Insider SA

FlySafair flights to Mauritius
(Image: FlySafair)
  • South Africans travel more when public holidays fall on either a Monday or Friday.
  • This is according to low-cost carrier FlySafair, which reports a 20% increase in passenger volumes over long weekends.
  • More long weekends can lead to a boom in domestic travel, which will help the country’s embattled tourism sector recover, the airline said in a statement on Tuesday.
  • FlySafair proposes changes to the Public Holidays Act, which will move midweek public holidays to Monday or Friday, while the historical dates will be recognised as a “day of observance”.
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South Africa’s low-cost airline, FlySafair, wants the Public Holidays Act to change by moving midweek off-days to Monday or Friday. Long weekends promote travel and this change, the airline says, will aid in the tourism sector’s recovery efforts.

South Africans travel more over three-day weekends. FlySafair reported that its passenger volumes increase by more than 20% over long weekends and, in a statement issued on Tuesday morning, cited the eThekwini municipality’s statistics of fully booked establishments arising from Heritage Day.

The news of more passengers and packed accommodation comes as a welcome reprieve for the embattled tourism sector, which has spent almost 20 months contending with varying degrees of lockdown and debilitating international travel restrictions.

It also coincides with the upcoming summer season, which traditionally sees a boom in travel, both domestically and from the international source market. Chief among these markets is the United Kingdom (UK), which sent more than 52,000 travellers to South Africa in December 2019. Last year, less than 9,000 British tourists arrived for the festive season.

And while South Africa’s recent removal from the UK’s restrictive red list has the tourism industry preparing for an influx of foreign visitors, FlySafair says more can be done to promote domestic travel.

The airline has proposed that public holidays which fall in the middle of the week be moved to either a Friday or Monday. The historically significant midweek dates would then be recognised as a day of observance.

This proposal, which includes amendments to the Public Holidays Act, has been tabled with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA). Once TBCSA has reviewed and approved the proposal, FlySafair hopes to lobby the department of tourism to bring the motion before parliament.

“Our intention is in no way to diminish the importance of these historical days,” said Elmar Conradie, FlySafair’s CEO, in a public statement announcing the proposal on Tuesday.

“Our aim would be to look at how the time off from work can be better used to benefit the tourism industry and encourage South Africans to travel again. These are unprecedented times and therefore require some new ways of thinking. We believe our proposal presents government with a novel idea to stimulate economic growth and recovery for the country as a whole.”

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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