- All over Europe, holiday trips to African charter destinations are poured into the market at record low prices, responding to a shrinking demand for exotic travels while European consumers fear an economic recession. Travellers need to act quickly as African trips will become expensive next year.
European charter companies, which during the last decade have added many African destinations to their programmes, are currently finding it difficult to sell their pre-booked packages in remote countries. While traditionally cheap trips to nearer European destinations remain popular, consumers have been scared away from more expensive charter trips in further away destinations, such as Africa.
As a result, charter companies are lowering prices to recruit travellers to programmes that already have been paid for - the European winter programme - in an attempt to limit losses. Destinations such as Egypt, Cape Verde and The Gambia are sold at lower rates than ever.
In Germany, the biggest European travel market, charter companies have entered into a price war to sell off last minute trips, but also Christmas holidays in distant destinations. Prices for a one-week trip to Egypt's Red Sea resorts - including flight, hotel and breakfast - are found from euro 349, and are expected to hit even lower prices as Christmas approaches.
In the UK, major charter companies slowly have started lowering their rates for trips to Egypt. Full packages including flight and bed & breakfast to the Red Sea coast are available from £ 400 (euro 500). While these are not yet record low levels, prices are still expected to fall this winter as the British travel market is facing a growing crisis. September 2008 saw one million fewer travellers using British airports compared to September last year, and tour operators will have to continue lowering prices to fill up rented aircrafts and hotel rooms this season.
In Scandinavia, also a major European travel market, prices have steeply dropped. Tour operators have had to sell out luxury packages with four star hotels on exotic destinations. One-week charter trips to Egypt go as low as NOK 3000 (euro 350), while full package trips to both The Gambia and Cape Verde can be bought for less than NOK 4000 (euro 470).
For African charter destinations, the low fares in Europe could represent a last chance to save the 2008-09 winter season, securing tourist arrivals at a similar number as last year. Other, more expensive, African destinations such as Seychelles, Mauritius, South Africa and Kenya, however are expected to lose out in the sharpened competition for tourist already this winter season.
But also for African charter destinations, the possible relief is only to be short-time. Many of Europe's leading tour operators and budget airliners are announcing reductions in their 2009 programmes. Tomas Cook - a major player in Germany, Scandinavia and the UK - has already announced major cuts in its programme. The company in a statement last week said it would cut back to a level mirroring the reduced market to make sure price wars are avoided next year.
Thus, the current wave of good offers for a charter trip to Africa is doomed to be short-lived. Already next year, fewer offers will make sure prices return high. For most African destinations, this will most probably mean a severe set-back in the number of arrivals.
Egypt, however, may be the exception in this trend. The growing destination is among the cheapest place to enjoy a holiday for European travellers, being a good option for nervous consumers. Flights remain cheap, and there is still a growing number of players believing in the destination. Budget airliner EasyJet, which recently has cut a number of loss-making routes from the UK, at the same time introduced Hurghada in Egypt as a new destination in its flight programme.
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