What a difference a day makes. With Anzac Day joining on to Easter this year to create a five-day break, many travel companies are reporting a jump in Easter bookings.
Some Aussies are taking the opportunity for a short overseas trip while there are cheap airfares on offer, but the longer Easter break is also providing a much-needed boost for our embattled domestic tourism industry. A recent survey by lastminute.com.au showed 33 per cent of Australians were planning to holiday in Australia over Easter, while eight per cent were planning to go overseas. Many were yet to decide but only nine per cent declared their intention to stay at home.
Lastminute’s sister company Travel.com.au says its domestic flight bookings for Easter are up more than 70 per cent on last year, while international flight bookings are up slightly. “A lot of people are putting the five days to good use and going away,” says the general manager of brand for travel.com.au, Lisa Ferrari.
Ferrari says the domestic airlines have been very active with tactical sales campaigns and this has helped spur people into action. There are also plenty of people taking a few days off work and extending their break, she says. With public holidays on the Friday (April 22), Monday and Tuesday, workers can get a 10-day break for the price of three days’ leave.
Ferrari says some of those taking longer breaks have been enticed by cheap overseas airfares such as $899 fares to Hawaii and $930 fares to Los Angeles. “There’s even an increase in people travelling to London (for the Easter period),” she says.
Quickbeds.com says it has seen a healthy increase in Easter bookings as a result of the longer break. Managing director John Feenaghty says there are also a lot of people who had their January holidays disrupted by weather events in Queensland and Victoria and are looking to make up for that. “I’m predicting a bumper Easter and June-July holiday period,” Feenaghty says.
The big winners on the domestic scene seem to be the Gold Coast and Melbourne, with every company contacted nominating them in the most popular destinations. Travel.com.au says the Gold Coast and Melbourne are clearly its biggest sellers for Easter, although Ferrari notes this is based purely on those flying to their destination and does not take into account driving holidays.
Flight Centre also nominates the Gold Coast and Melbourne, along with Sydney and Tasmania. The company says the Queensland Islands and Tropical North Queensland, which are typically very popular for Easter, are down on last year, “for obvious reasons relating to weather”.
However, AOT Holidays, which has brands including the Queensland specialist Sunlover Holidays, says it is seeing strong demand for Tropical North Queensland, along with the Gold Coast. The general manager of sales and marketing for AOT, Hugh Houston, says while negative perceptions have been a problem for Tropical North Queensland since Cyclone Yasi, the industry has done a good job of letting travellers know it is open for business. “The bookings coming through for this region are an indication that we are slowly getting that message out there,” Houston says.
Houston says the company is also seeing demand for city breaks, with plenty of good deals on offer for major capital cities. AOT’s Easter bookings have been tracking on a similar line to last year but are expected to improve due to the trend towards last-minute bookings.
Zuji Australia says it expects its Easter bookings to be up about 100 per cent on last year, thanks in part to the longer break. “We’re quite excited about how Easter bookings are proceeding at the moment,” says managing director James Gaskell.
Gaskell says there have been very good flight-plus-hotel packages in the market and the extra day off work is encouraging people to travel further. Many Zuji customers are heading overseas, making the most of cheap flights and the strong Australian dollar. “We’ve had a significant number of customers booking early with special offers for combined flight and hotel packages, particularly to Fiji and Phuket,” Gaskell says. “I think this has been buoyed naturally by the strong Australian dollar, making it more affordable for Australians to travel abroad.”
Never too late for a good deal
If you haven’t yet planned anything for the Easter break, it’s not too late. Travelpoint.com.au this week had four-star Melbourne accommodation from $135 a night over Easter, while Needtoescape.com had a five-star hotel in Cairns from $149 a night and Quickbeds had Noosa accommodation from $95 a night.
For those wanting to venture a bit further, lastminute.com.au had 4.5-star accommodation in Auckland from $110 a night while Wotif.com had a wide range of Pacific Island accommodation, with prices starting at $65 a night.
This article is taken from Jane E. Fraser’s weekly travel column in The Sun Herald, Sydney