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Emerging business travel destinations to watch in 2024

Inflation, electricity issues, and rising interest rates paint a challenging picture for many South African companies in the upcoming year.  However, there’s a ray of hope on the horizon: business travel is anticipated to make a comeback in 2024.

A Deloitte survey estimated that by the end of 2024 spending will have returned to pre-pandemic levels, while a GBTA report in Q3 2022 indicated a spending return to near 2019 levels by the end of 2025.

This business travel revival could be seen as an opportunity driven by both political will and the opening of new routes into emerging markets. These developments may offer South African business travellers fresh avenues for growth and expansion beyond their domestic constraints.

As Bonnie Smith, GM Corporate Traveller, puts it: “The UAE, India, Singapore, China and Nigeria are all promising emerging markets for South African travellers. The governments of these emerging markets tend to implement policies that favour industrialisation and rapid economic growth. To tap the potential, South African executives will need boots on the ground frequently to network, size up the competition and build relationships.”

From agriculture to tech startups, infrastructure to green energy, savvy South African companies across emerging sectors now have gateways to turbocharge growth across new markets. Especially India has come in the limelight in the past year. According to several economic institutions and global agencies, India is projected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030, providing a wealth of new and emerging opportunities for South African businesses.

New aviation routes

As the gateway to Africa, South Africa is ideally positioned to tap into the growth opportunities presented by emerging economies. However, there is still a need for greater air connectivity.

Since the start of 2022, South Africa has inaugurated or re-established direct flights from markets such as Beijing-Shenzhen, Hong Kong and São-Paolo. Moreover, the country is also in talks with Air India to establish direct flights to Delhi and/or Mumbai. “We are certainly targeting airlift from India. Airlift from China also remains challenging, so an increase in frequencies from Air China is a priority,” Gauteng Department of Economic Development MEC Tasneem Motara was recently quoted as saying.

These talks lay a solid foundation for more direct flights, better airport infrastructure, and increased frequency of air travel – music to the ears of South African businesses and emerging industries.

Forward-thinking preparation is key

Converting opportunities into rewards requires localisation and insider knowledge. For South African firms that strategically prepare, the potential is immense.

As Smith advised, “It’s time for proactive South African companies to get ready with the right partners, tools and travel programmes to win in these emerging markets.”

By setting up robust frameworks now, forward-thinking companies can ride this wave to new heights as opportunities unfold across the world.

Key insights for South African businesses

To strategically harness opportunities within the key emerging markets, South African travel managers need to navigate this new landscape adeptly, with a keen understanding of the destinations, their cultures, logistics, and security concerns. Smith and the Corporate Traveller team have provided these 5 key insights every business owner, travel manager or booker must know:

1.         Crafting travel policies for a new business landscape

Rather than generic, one-size-fits-all policies, there’s a growing demand for nuanced, region-specific guidelines. For instance, visa regulations, local transportation dynamics, and preferred accommodation chains vary widely across the different markets, necessitating a tailored approach.

2.         Safety first

Emerging markets are generally not without its tensions. Ensuring traveller safety in volatile regions becomes paramount. A Travel Management Company (TMC) offers more than just booking services; it provides real-time alerts, localised support, and risk assessment – ensuring peace of mind for corporate travellers.

“Duty of care isn’t just a policy point; it’s a commitment. Venturing into new territories can be daunting, and it’s our role as TMCs to ensure travellers are well-informed, safe, and comfortable,” says Smith.

You’re going to want to lean on your TMC for real-time risk alerts and emergency travel support. Monitor embassy announcements closely.

3.         Securing top-tier deals

Venturing into emerging markets might feel like stepping into the unknown for many corporations, especially when it comes to obtaining value deals. A global TMC, with its expansive network and seasoned negotiation prowess, is indispensable. From negotiating bulk flight rates to securing favourable terms with emerging hotel chains, a TMC is the ultimate ally in maximising ROI on business travel.

4.         Diplomacy in diversity

Navigating the rich tapestry of cultural traditions in emerging markets can be a minefield. A faux pas in India might be a gesture of goodwill in China. An adept TMC educates travellers on local etiquettes and social norms, ensuring that business interactions are smooth, respectful, and productive.

5.         Navigating uncharted territories

Delving into a new cities riddled with unfamiliar logistics, can be a daunting enterprise. Where are the safe zones? Which local transport is reliable? Which venues are suitable for corporate meetings? A seasoned TMC, with its deep knowledge of local insights will become your trusted ally.

Then there are the ‘green’ concerns. Who are the eco-certified suppliers, how can you offset emissions and track sustainability KPIs? Every step counts and you’re probably going to want to do things a little differently so a TMC that gets ‘you’ and your business can help you knock any business travel out of the park. 

Corporates that strategically prepare today with robust frameworks, localisation knowledge and strong TMC partners will gain a competitive advantage in this new and exciting growth landscape.

For more information about Corporate Traveller, or to interview Corporate Traveller South Africa GM Bonnie Smith, call Dorine Reinstein on 083 278 8994 or email

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