The US Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office has released data that reveals a record 93 million outbound travellers in 2018, with Africa being the destination of choice of 423 000 of those.

This marks a 7% increase from the previous period.

The total growth of US outbound travel in 2018 was 6%, an indication that the appetite for extra-border travel is growing.

“South Africa is rapidly growing as a top destination for adventure travel, and this trend has been well received by the US market. We see more and more requests for out-of-the-ordinary experiences incorporating more of the local flair,” says Andrea Schaffner, Market Manager for North America at Tourvest DMC.

Ronald Mracký, International Advisory Committee Member of the Africa Tourism Association, says: “I attribute the increased volume to the changing demographics and a changed mindset of the US travel market. This also includes the ‘old generation’ that now lives longer and is healthier, or healthy enough to travel, making the market pool larger, plus the younger age groups having a greater wanderlust. All attributable to the amount of newly positioned lifestyle media coverage of SA and Africa – such as culinary, wine, excitement, fashion, music, great-looking accommodations. All these create awareness suited to the changed mindset, and address new psychographic groups, which were not addressed before.”

Schaffner adds that the American market is very interested in bucket-list travel experiences. “For older travellers this translates to them wanting to travel while they still can and experience all that South Africa has to offer. Luxury experiences go hand in hand with the US market; beyond offering five-star options this can also be achieved through the personal touch elements integrated into their travel itineraries.

“Another growing trend that we see is travelling with a purpose, where guests now want to give back to small underprivileged communities and participate in environmental and conservation experiences,” she says.

Airlines and hotel groups are the two major market research-orientated industries, says Mracký. “They individually spend more on their RD and market analysis than all the tourism organisations we know of; and based on United Airlines’ decision to open the route between New York/New Jersey and Cape Town, is a strong indicator that good growth of Africa tourism exists. Marriott is another one: its Middle East/Africa Division’s entry into Africa is staggering – over 350 properties across the continent – interestingly, this is also dependent on intra-travel and tourism that is taking place in Africa. All this influences the travel and tourism industry’s attention on Africa, and this then influences media and ultimately the consumer.”