Hit­ting a home run

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

TAYCATION is the new tourism buz­zword for at-home hol­i­days, and while De­par­ture Lounge pre­dicts a (hope­fully) short life span for the clumsy term, there are signs aplenty that 2009 will be a year when many Aus­tralians de­cide to go do­mes­tic. Which does not mean cook­ing, scrub­bing and feather-dust­ing but spending hol­i­days within Aus­tralia, fi­nally get­ting around to ex­plor­ing our great green, gold and red back­yard.

At last we have shed the cringe fac­tor about lo­cal travel. Lit­tle Lounge once de­clared to her school chums she’d had a hol­i­day on the Gold Coast and had the pic­tures to prove it, com­plete with clown-cos­tumed rain­bow lori­keets in her hair at the Cur­rumbin Bird Sanc­tu­ary (as it was then known; now it has been el­e­vated to a wildlife sanc­tu­ary, just as mo­tels have been pro­moted to re­sorts, pools to la­goons, spaghetti to pasta).

Any­how, th­ese pals gave Lit­tle Lounge a most with­er­ing look and scoffed, ‘‘ Queens­land’s not over­seas, dummy, and so that hol­i­day doesn’t count.’’

FOR the past five years, Travel&In­dul­gence has show­cased do­mes­tic hol­i­days on our weekly Des­ti­na­tion Aus­tralia page and we will con­tinue to bring read­ers com­pre­hen­sive cov­er­age in 2009.

The en­cour­ag­ing news is of cheaper petrol and the move by Vir­gin Blue, Qan­tas and Jet­star to drop do­mes­tic fuel sur­charges; so lo­cal gadding will be more af­ford­able, too.

LOUNGE has dusted off her crys­tal ball for some 2009 hol­i­day gaz­ing. One big trend is vol­un­teer tourism. Many em­ploy­ees who’ve been made re­dun­dant are show­ing keen in­ter­est in learn­ing or hon­ing skills on projects in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Ac­cord­ing to The­Guardian, Bri­tish-based VSO has had twice as many in­quiries about long-term vol­un­teer­ing in the past few months as dur­ing the same pe­riod in 2007.

Aus­tralian op­er­a­tors pre­dict in­creased in­ter­est in this style of feel-good travel, too. ‘‘ The eco­nomic cli­mate will, of course, move trav­ellers to seek value,’’ says Sue Bad­yari of World Ex­pe­di­tions. ‘‘ How­ever this will be fol­lowed by a de­mand for a deeper con­nec­tion with the world . . . This trend is demon­strated by the in­creas­ing in­ter­est in com­mu­nity project travel where peo­ple spend part of their hol­i­day help­ing oth­ers and part of their break ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the beauty of our planet.’’ www.world­ex­pe­di­tions.com.au.

THE boffins at re­spon­si­ble­travel.com pre­dict a fur­ther in­crease in tra­di­tional hol­i­days close to home as well as a re­turn to longer and ‘‘ more clas­sic’’ travel ex­pe­ri­ences. Manag­ing di­rec­tor Justin Fran­cis says: ‘‘ This will be one of the tough­est years the travel in­dus­try has faced. It’ll be tough for trav­ellers, too; many won’t take a hol­i­day while oth­ers will cut out sec­ond and third hol­i­days, choos­ing to stay at home or with friends.

‘‘ Those who choose to spend will want to en­sure they are not dis­ap­pointed, and the de­pend­able favourites, those that are best in their cat­e­gory, will be the or­der of the day,’’ says Fran­cis, who men­tions blue-rib­bon clas­sics such as Angkor Wat in Cam­bo­dia, Machu Pic­chu in Peru and Kenya’s sa­fari hub, the Ma­sai Mara. In 2008, re­spon­si­ble­travel.com ex­pe­ri­enced a huge rise in in­quiries about hol­i­days in Syria and Jor­dan, and in­ter­est in Cuba in­creased by 40 per cent. And new to its top 10 spots was Turkey, deemed to be good value as it is out­side the euro zone.

UN­LESS you were sashay­ing around spud-ob­sessed Peru last year, it may have es­caped your at­ten­tion that 2008 was the In­ter­na­tional Year of the Po­tato. But we can ex­pect 2009 to have star billing in theme-year terms. It’s the In­ter­na­tional Year of As­tron­omy, cel­e­brat­ing the 400th an­niver­sary of Galileo’s first use of the re­fract­ing tele­scope. And with our wide, clear skies, Aus­tralia is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for ad­mir­ing the star-span­gled heav­ens.

The NSW Na­tional Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice has teamed with as­tronomers to of­fer Starry, Starry Night Dis­cov­ery Tours that in­volve prac­ti­cal and fun as­tron­omy tu­to­ri­als and sto­ry­telling by ex­pert guides. About 20 na­tional parks, state con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and na­ture re­serves in NSW have been host­ing events th­ese sum­mer hol­i­days.

Head to Lin­den Ob­ser­va­tory in the Blue Moun­tains Na­tional Park on Jan­uary 22 at 6.30pm and brush up your tele­scopic skills. Book via Blue Moun­tains Her­itage Cen­tre: (02) 4787 8877.

Or, on Jan­uary 23, learn about the rich in­dige­nous mythol­ogy of the south­ern skies from an Abo­rig­i­nal elder at Bare Is­land, Botany Bay Na­tional Park. Book via Cad­mans Cot­tage: (02) 9247 5033.

Or go star-gaz­ing at the Royal Na­tional Park on Jan­uary 31 at 8.30pm. Book­ings es­sen­tial: (02) 9542 0666. Other re­lated events are planned in Fe­bru­ary. 1300 361 967; www.en­vi­ron­ment.nsw.gov.au; www.as­tron­omy2009.org.au.

AHOY, voy­agers. Cruis­ing is en­joy­ing un­prece­dented buoy­ancy. P & OCruises Aus­tralia re­ported a record num­ber of phone in­quiries on Jan­uary 5, when most of­fice work­ers re­turned to the grind. More than 7000 calls were re­ceived, an in­crease of 43 per cent on the pre­vi­ous record set in Jan­uary last year. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Ann Sherry says the pop­u­lar­ity of cruis­ing is grow­ing steadily be­cause Aus­tralians are search­ing for good­value hol­i­days amid all the talk of eco­nomic doom and gloom. www.pocruises.com.au.

FIND of the week: Don’t leave home without it: if bound for the US, be aware of new bor­der en­try pro­ce­dures. Aus­tralian pass­port-hold­ers must ob­tain pre-travel ap­proval via the on­line US Elec­tronic Sys­tem for Travel Au­tho­ri­sa­tion. Once granted, this free elec­tronic pre-clear­ance is valid for up to two years and for mul­ti­ple-en­try vis­its. 1800 687 844; https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/; www.dfat.gov.au.

LOUNGE loves: The tower block of the re­cently bombed Taj Ma­hal ho­tel in Mum­bai has re­opened with a gala an­nounce­ment: ‘‘ We’re bring­ing back the clink of cham­pagne flutes, even pile car­pets that muf­fle the foot­fall of com­merce, and the per­fect sea view.’’ Let’s over­look the gushy prose and cel­e­brate that the best ho­tel in In­dia’s busiest city is back. Lounge hopes the restora­tion of its dam­aged Palace Wing, with its her­itage fea­tures and grand flour­ishes, con­tin­ues swiftly and smoothly. www.tajho­tels.com.

LOUNGE loathes: Com­pa­nies that of­fer a mon­ey­back guar­an­tee within seven days if cus­tomers are un­sat­is­fied and then deduct a ser­vice fee. Lounge has been thus caught by an on­line an­ces­try links provider. Shop around more wisely and read the small print, she hears you cry: not a bad motto for our travel uni­verse in 2009.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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