Taking a holiday during the pandemic may get you discounted rates and qualify you for additional perks, but is it really cheaper than a holiday taken pre-Covid-19?
Travel experts have different views on this.
Some believe that now is the best time for travellers to venture out because of the unbelievably low prices. Others claim holiday prices aren’t affordable for the average South African.
“It is definitely a travel-buyers’ market now,” said Cindy Sheedy Walker, the chief executive of Extraordinary Sales and Marketing.
“Specials, promotions and offers have never been this attractive, with every product competing to attract a piece of the domestic travel pie.”
She acknowledged that the average South African couldn’t afford a holiday, especially after the impact of Covid-19 on many households.
For example, even at a reduced price of R5 000 a night per person, a couple will fork out R20 000 for a two-night break, which isn't cost-effective for most.
The pandemic has also impacted the travel industry. Some hotels have closed down permanently because of the lack of demand for international and local travel.
Walker said with inflation and operating costs soaring, property owners may find it challenging to offer discounts.
“Hotels in the cities are finding it much more difficult as corporate travel remains slow to recover and there is a limited leisure market to the urbanised areas,” she said.
Sue Garrett, general manager of marketing and products at the Flight Centre Travel Group South Africa, said there was no better time to travel locally.
“South African travel behaviour has changed. South Africans are now spending a lot of money exploring our country. Before the pandemic, domestic tourism was often only for a weekend away or special occasions. But now we’re seeing the demand for longer stays and travellers looking at luxury lodges that they wouldn’t have considered or been able to stay at before.
“The reaction from the public has been positive, with domestic room nights for February 2021 on par with February 2020. Consumers are looking for value for money rather than purely cheap deals,” she said.
Marketing manager for Dream Hotels & Resorts Group Sharmila Ragunanan said local travellers did not need to worry about Covid testing or quarantine costs. “There are great deals on offer with accommodation rates being more affordable as we enter the winter season. It is also a good time to travel as there are usually fewer people travelling so you can enjoy having more space to yourself,” she said.
Walker said safari lodges that generally catered almost exclusively to the international market had reduced their prices by up to 80%, allowing many South Africans the opportunity to travel to places they once couldn’t afford.
Garrett said the additional costs for Covid testing and quarantine when travelling to an international destination has made travel more expensive. “The testing, quarantine regulations and subsequent costs vary from country to country. These range from just the cost of a PCR test for departure or arrival at R230-R250 a person. However, if a test is required before departure, this could range from R250-R700 a person, depending on the country you visit,” she said.
“Where there is high demand for flights, such as Australia for Australian citizens, prices are more expensive. But for places like Zanzibar and the Maldives, which are destinations open for South Africans, prices are in line with pre-Covid levels,” she added.
General manager for Corporate Traveller Oz Desai weighed the pros and cons of business travel during Covid-19.
“Budgeting for business travel in 2021 means allocating resources to increased airfares and preparing for sudden changes to flight schedules, which may result in additional fees.
“It is important to note that you are now only allocating a budget for essential business travel, allowing you to reduce the number of employees you would usually schedule for trips and the number of trips planned.
“This allows you to stick to a budget that is in line with previous years’ costs, despite the current increase in airfares,” Desai said.
He said many businesses considered using chain properties instead of bed and breakfasts for accommodation. “The good news is that many chain properties have not increased their rates from 2020 to 2021.
“Based on market research conducted by Corporate Traveller, global hotel rates in key cities are set to reduce by an average of 4.5% in 2021,” he said.