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Many local holidaymakers are opting for more affordable package holidays to places like Thailand, which still offers good value and a decent exchange rate.

Many local holidaymakers are opting for more affordable package holidays to places like Thailand, which still offers good value and a decent exchange rate.

Published Feb 24, 2014

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Durban - Affluent and middle-class South Africans are tightening their belts when it comes to luxury holidays abroad as the cost of living continues to soar.

While many may still be intent on going on holiday despite the tough economic climate, they are opting for shorter holidays, cheaper hotels and all-inclusive packages to get more value for money.

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Increased airport taxes and the weak rand are among the reasons South Africans are thinking twice about travelling overseas. And local travel is not much cheaper.

Melissa Philips, owner of Sure Map Travel and who has been in the travel business for more than 26 years, said despite the business being busy, people were being more cautious and cutting costs where they could. “For example, they are reviewing the standard of their accommodation from a four-star to maybe three-star hotel. Some holiday destinations have increased in price, so places like Thailand in the East, where you get better value for money, have become more popular.

“We have also found that compared with previous years we have not had a lot of people booking and paying for holidays for the June/July school holidays. There have been a lot of inquiries though,” she said.

Philips said Europe was popular for the mid-year school holidays, while Disney World was the ideal destination for the December holidays.

She said many people travelling abroad stayed with family and friends while others opted for travel packages. She said local travel as an alternative could also be expensive.

“A family of five wanted to stay in the Drakensberg for a week over December. It worked out to R5 000 a night, R35 000 for the week. The client said with a bit more saving they would rather go overseas.

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“Also, airport taxes are killing us. We have seen flights being advertised for R4 000 and if you look at airport taxes it’s R8 000. The total cost of the flight is R12 000, which we have to explain to customers.”

Sean Penn Hough, managing director of Pentravel, said they were busy as it was peak booking season. They had been selling a lot of package deals.

“While South Africans are keen on travelling in the US and Europe, it is more expensive, due to the return on earnings. However, certain companies help with discounts offered, such as the 7.5 percent early booking discount available until the end of March. The Indian Ocean islands and the Far East are very popular and generally visa-free. Thailand is still our top holiday destination despite the protests.”

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Penn Hough said packaged deals were popular as South Africans preferred to pay for as much possible beforehand. “All-inclusive resorts are popular and prove more cost-effective in the end.”

Andrew Stark, general manager at Flight Centre, said popular international destinations included Mauritius and Thailand, where the exchange rate is still favourable.

However, the UK, Australia and the US were still popular.

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“At the moment travellers are looking for holidays that provide additional value. Package holidays and all-inclusive packages are growing in popularity as they are the ideal way to ensure that most things be paid upfront and no nasty bills hit you while on holiday.

“Our all-inclusive flights include accommodation, all meals and selected drinks, which is great value.”

He said they were seeing an increase in touring holidays.

Charles Preece, East Coast operations manager of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa, said many people would not be travelling abroad because the rand had been hit hard. “Those with money will continue to travel overseas, but increased costs of living like fuel are putting a strain on budgets. Most people opt for local holidays.”

After the Christmas and New Year boom, things had quietened in KwaZulu-Natal. And for foreign business, Cape Town benefits the most. - Sunday Tribune

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