Ready for a summer holiday.
  • With South Africa off the UK's red list from Monday, Brits are scrambling to lock down Christmas holidays on SA's beaches and in its parks.
  • With flight options still limited, that means prices approaching R60,000 for round-trip tickets – in economy class.
  • Interest spiked even before the official announcement, then again after the decision was confirmed.
  • Pre-pandemic, South Africa was a popular destination for Brits trying to escape their winter over Christmas.
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People in Britain were scrambling to secure the flights that would get them to South Africa for Christmas on Thursday, after official confirmation that the United Kingdom will drop SA from its red list as of Monday, 11 October.

That change in status – alongside the UK's decision to accept proof of Covid-19 vaccinations done in South Africa – opens up travel to the UK without mandatory quarantine at a cost approaching R45,000 per person.

It also effectively reopens SA as a destination for the traditional British winter getaway, particularly over the week between Christmas and New Year.

See also | South Africa is finally removed from the UK’s red list – and vaccine cards will be accepted

And there were plenty of potential winter refugees on Thursday night, the numbers suggested. 

Google Trends showed a sharp spike in searches for "travel to South Africa" from within the United Kingdom.

The spike in searches for
(Google Trends)

And airline booking systems showed that seats were going fast – and at great price.

On Thursday night, an adult round-trip ticket from London to Johannesburg covering the prime Christmas week was going for the equivalent of slightly over R57,000 on Virgin Atlantic – and that was for its "economy classic" offering.

Fellow UK-based airline British Airways was charging a comparatively paltry R25,000 for the same thing.

Direct flights between the UK and South Africa remain limited; the slowly reemerging South African Airways is not yet offering that route. Flights connecting through the Middle East and Europe are also still scarce, by pre-pandemic standards.

Interest in tickets to South Africa started even before the official announcement of Thursday of the de-listing, with the likes of Virgin reporting a 150% increase in bookings during the course of the week.

In 2019, South Africa recorded 466,481 British arrivals.

A March 2021 survey by South African Tourism and YouGov found that intent to travel to South Africa remained stable, with natural beauty a major drawcard.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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