Last updated: 11:47 AM ET, Thu October 22 2015

South African Airways Vacations Offers Winter Cape Town Package for $1,299

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | October 16, 2015

South African Airways Vacations Offers Winter Cape Town Package for $1,299

PHOTO: Cape Town's Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. (Photo by David Cogswell)

Two thousand dollars has long been the low-end price barrier operators of tours to South Africa have struggled to break through. Now South African Airways Vacations has put an air-inclusive tour to South Africa on the market at $1,299 per person. The package includes transatlantic air fare, five nights’ hotel accommodations in Cape Town with breakfast included, airport transfers and a hop-on/hop-off bus tour of the city.

This price is a jaw-dropper.

In the past it has long been nearly impossible to break the $2,000 barrier. Now we are seeing a package priced at $1,299.

Several years ago South African Airways Vacations came up with a series of packages called Affordable Africa that broke the $2,000 price barrier. The standard budget-priced introductory package to South Africa from any tour operators was some variation on the standard Cape-Kruger package. That was made up of a few nights exploring Cape Town followed by a couple of nights at a safari lodge in Kruger National Park or some other game reserve.

But as fuel prices increased and the dollar weakened, it became virtually impossible for tour operators to break the $2,000 price barrier, and the under-$2,000 package became lost to history.

They pretty much disappeared from the market and tour operators looked to set their lower limits at a different rate. A South African trip for under $3,000 was still a good value in terms of what was offered in the overall spectrum of the international travel industry.

Now things have changed again and South African Airways Vacations, the airline’s tour packaging unit, has come up with an air-inclusive package for a week in South Africa at a price far below the former bottom limit of $2,000.

There are a few reasons why this price is possible for this package now.

Fuel prices have plunged, and while most airlines have not passed on those savings, SAA seems to be using every advantage it can to break through the sales resistance of Americans.

The value of the dollar has strengthened versus the rand, and that creates opportunities for coming up with lower prices.

This package is based in Cape Town for the whole five nights on the ground, so the transportation to the game reserve and the cost of a safari does not contribute to the cost.

And obviously this is a winter package. It’s the off season for travel for Americans. However, the North American winter is the South African summer, so it is the warmest and sunniest time of the year to see Cape Town. Cape Town is splendid at any time of year. But during the Cape Town winter, which is during the summer travel season in North America, the Cape is pretty cold, windy and wet. So the off season in North America is the high season for Cape Town.

Given that this is the lowest price seen for as long as anyone can remember, and there are no reasons to feel secure that this kind of opportunity will remain. This would be a good time to take the leap.

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