The strengthening of the rand against the currencies of South Africa’s source markets, has not impacted bookings. According to XE Currency Tables, the rand had strengthened by 25% against the British pound, 17% against the euro, and 15% against the dollar on January 29, 2017 compared with the same time last year.
Bookings for January 2017 had not slowed, even though the rand had strengthened, said Onne Vegter, MD of Wild Wings Safaris. He said the exchange rate was not a factor that influenced the planning of a trip. “There are other factors that have a much bigger effect,” said Vegter, mentioning Ebola and immigration regulations.
He said there was more likely to be a change in booking patterns when the rand dropped in value rather than when it strengthened. People who were uncertain of whether to visit South Africa would choose to book and pay while the rand was weak, he said.
Vegter said rates had not been affected that much by the exchange rate, unless a property was priced in dollars, in which case the rand pricing might change. “But people, don’t pay in rands; they pay the US dollar cost anyway.” However, he said rand-priced properties would be significantly more expensive for overseas tourists.
Another operator, however, has experienced some changes in rates based on currency fluctuations. Mariska Yntema, Product Manager at Jenman Safaris, said there had been a decrease in prices comparing January 2016 and January 2017. “Generally our ZAR costs increase between 8% and 10% year on year. With the fluctuation in exchange rates, our EUR and USD prices have, however, decreased from 2016-2017 on the South Africa tailor-made products, anything from 5% up to 20%,” said Yntema.
She added that suppliers had also made significant rate increases for 2017, following more gradual increases in the past.
Katja Quasdorf, CEO of Jenman African Safaris, added that while currency fluctuations might influence short-term marketing efforts and last-minute packages, a lot of marketing was planned long-term, so basing these efforts on a weak or strong currency was rather risky. “You never know what a currency will be doing, as opinions and speculations go in both directions,” she said.
The rand is not the only currency to have strengthened in the last year. As South Africa’s rand has strengthened against the British Pound, currencies of competing destinations for the UK market have also strengthened. The US dollar, Australian dollar and Thai Baht all strengthened against the British Pound on January 29, 2017 compared with the same time last year. Against the British Pound, the US dollar strengthened by 12%, the Australian dollar strengthened by 17%, and the Thai Baht strengthened by 13%. “Even though the rand has strengthened more than others, it is still much better value for money compared to the US dollar-based destinations that we compete with,” concluded Vegter.