Demand for international leisure and corporate travel is low at the moment, but many agents are reporting that emigration is currently a large percentage of their business.
Travel Counsellor, Lize Roodt, said she had assisted about 25 people with emigration bookings over the last four months, and a number of bookings were still pending. She said Mauritius, the UK, Ireland and Portugal were the popular choices for South Africans wanting to move abroad at present.
“Many of my clients had been planning to emigrate for a while, saying they did not see a future for themselves in South Africa, and the COVID situation simply spurred them on to move their dates forward.”
Lize said it was a nightmare to organise these trips at the moment, with some of her clients having to move their dates forward a few times already, due to the ever-changing regulations.
Owner of Aeroplan Travel, Fiona Watermeyer, agreed that COVID had been a catalyst and had pushed people who had been sitting on the fence to make an earlier decision about emigrating. Fiona has helped four or five families to move to the UK recently and said she was also receiving a lot of requests for long-stay scouting trips to Australia and Canada.
“At one time, booking an emigration fare for a client meant that you would lose the client, but with WhatsApp and Zoom calls, online booking and email correspondence, this is no longer the case. A weak currency often means that we are able to procure competitive rates for international clients and the relationship doesn't need to die as the clients cross over the border,” said Fiona.
Another ITC, who did not wish to be named, said she and her colleague had booked over 2 000 one-way tickets for emigrating clients since July. She said there had also been a rush of European passport holders moving to the UK before the Brexit deadline and now their husbands and wives were joining them this year. She had also noticed that many British passport holders and ancestral visa holders were enquiring about immigration this year.
The unnamed consultant also said that the biggest issue with these bookings was the ever-changing entry regulations. She said she always advised her clients to carry more documentation than necessary to avoid problems when entering the UK.
“These clients aren't lost to us just because they are now in another country. I'm already seeing repeat bookings. They are asking me to send over family members or for return visits to South Africa. They want me to assist them,” she said.