Hitting a home run
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.