Cape Town - Where in the world can South Africans on a budget enjoy a holiday abroad?
With traditional favourites such as the US, UK and most of Europe out of reach as the value of the rand has plummeted, this is a question many are contemplating. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent a cup of coffee could set one back R80 in the UK.
Interviews with tourism industry players, including some who attended the World Travel Market at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) last week, showed Africa and its surrounding islands as well as the Far East may be the only affordable destinations left.
It's safer to take out your wallet in Mauritius than anywhere else, it emerged. Packages of R20 000 a week, including flights, accommodation and meals, are on offer.
Mozambique is viewed as the only country that could match Mauritius in terms of affordability.You might also be able to buy a few beers without spending a month's salary in Namibia, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe.
Much of Africa, including our neighbours Botswana, Zambia and Nigeria, are out, because the majority of African countries use US dollars as currency. Lagos in Nigeria so expensive that prices compare to European countries.
Countries in the Far East that could help you avoid bankruptcy upon your return are Thailand, which is the cheapest, while Bali and Malaysia are not too bad either.
Heidi Helm from Access Southern Africa, which specialises in leisure travel management, said Namibia was South African-friendly and had specials for South Africa and other SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries.
You could sometimes get discounts of up to 50 percent, said Helm. Botswana had good camping facilities, but was “quite expensive”. Mozambique offered affordable chalets and camper and tent accommodation.
Zimbabwe, away from its main attraction Victoria Falls, was also okay, said Helm.
She said Bali and Thailand offered good value for money and had high standards, she said.
Karin Matodes of OnBoardTourism said Lagos was “nearly as expensive as London”. She said she encouraged visitors to go into Africa and surrounding islands. “Everywhere you go, the people are different, the culture is different, the food is different and the way of life is different”.
Locals who would have gone to Europe were now looking for something closer to home.
“Regional hotels with a little bit of a beach will see growth,” said Matodes.
Matodes said Mauritius and Mozambique were favourites; Zanzibar was growing and Thailand was “still very affordable”. Reunion is a no-no because it was “incredibly expensive”, she said.
Sandi Macfie, director at Intercontinental Hotel Groups IHG, which has 4 800 hotels in 100 countries, said: “If you want to experience something more than Southern Africa, but can't afford to go to Europe, one week in Mauritius will be cheaper. It's R20 000 for a week, including flights, meals and accommodation. They approach it in a very integrated way. It's a really good special. There's really nice beaches and restaurants.
“They quote in rands and it stays the same. It's significantly cheaper than the Seychelles, The Maldives and Bali,” said Macfie.
She said the “ only competition” for Mauritius is Mozambique, which also offered South Africans an “attractive package”.
“It's a highly accessible overseas island resort. It's only four hours away,” said Macfie.
The president of the Association of Southern African Travel Agent, Vanya Lessing, said: “The weakness of the rand has affected international travel for leisure and business travellers. Those who have to travel for business are taking shorter trips. The “bizcation” has become popular, with corporates adding a day or two at personal expense, for some sightseeing or adventure.
“Travel to Africa is also costly, due to limited direct air access to certain countries and most of Africa deals in US dollars.
“Mauritius and Thailand are still very popular with South Africans. Both countries offer great value to both budget and luxury travellers. Mauritius is also popular due to no visa requirement for South Africans, so you can make that last minute decision to travel take a break,” said Lessing.