The demand for self-drive travel in South Africa more than doubled over the past 10 years, but saw a slow-down at the end of 2018.

Self-drive forms a significant portion of the SA tourism sector, says Lance Smith, Chief Executive Director of Sales at Avis Budget Group SA, but towards the end of last year slowed down from consistent double-digit growth over 2016, 2017 and the first period of 2018, to single-digit growth. This is due to a number of reasons, which could include the Brexit uncertainty, and political issues in Europe influencing inbound tourists’ propensity for overseas travel.

The most notable source markets for self-drive travel to SA are the UK, USA and Germany, with other markets including France, Switzerland, Holland, Australia and New Zealand. And these markets are expanding their desire for self-drive travel into other southern and East Africa countries, although there are barriers to the growth of this sector into the rest of Africa. “What we’re starting to see in Namibia is the limitations of accommodation availability during peak periods,” says Smith.

Despite barriers such as these, other countries such as Botswana are opening up as self-drive markets. And for the first time, Zimbabwe is seeing self-drive offerings from tour operators. 

“Independent travellers want to do their own thing,” he says. “They have confidence in the road network, which supports sector growth, as does a decent support structure behind the car-rental business. Word of mouth is extremely important,” which is derived from excellent service by rental providers, and a good customer experience, he explains. And public transport in Africa not being on the same level as it is internationally, further lends itself the demand for self-drive car rental.

This article was updated on March 18 (13h00).