Bag a bar­gain

Rob In­gram shares some in­sider tips and de­tails of top deals to make those shaky hol­i­day dol­lars go the dis­tance

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Lure of the open road: The star­tling turquoise wa­ter of Tekapo Canal could be one of the high­lights of a value-for-money New Zealand mo­torhome hol­i­day ON’T be selfish: take a hol­i­day. Ob­ses­sive com­pul­sive pro­duc­tiv­ity isn’t go­ing to help the global econ­omy when world trade is shrink­ing be­cause the have-nots can no longer meet the ran­som de­mands of the have-too-muches. The most re­spon­si­ble thing to do is take time out and spend. In 1986, Paul Keat­ing warned us about be­com­ing a ba­nana repub­lic. To­day we should con­sider be­com­ing a ba­nana lounge repub­lic.

Tourism has been one of the global econ­omy’s con­spic­u­ous growth sec­tors. Sure, the slow­ing of the global econ­omy af­fects tourism, but that’s not all bad for the con­sumer. Eco­nomic tur­moil merely tends to reshuf­fle the pack as to which des­ti­na­tions are the most at­trac­tive value-wise. And for the con­sumer, it’s not just a game of cur­rency con­ver­sion.

Air­line load fac­tors be­come soft and pro­mo­tional deals start emerg­ing. Gov­ern­ments con­jure up res­cue pack­ages to at­tract the for­eign dol­lar. In­ter­est rates go through an in­ward 11/ som­er­saults with two twists and some for­tu­nate peo­ple find them­selves with more dis­pos­able in­come.

Colin Bow­man, ex­ec­u­tive gen­eral man­ager (mar­ket­ing) with the Flight Cen­tre group, says even tra­di­tional des­ti­na­tions such as the US and Bri­tain still con­sti­tute value. Peo­ple might think the Aus­tralian dol­lar is not as strong against the US dol­lar as it was, but then sud­denly there’s a $1199 re­turn fare be­tween Aus­tralia and Los An­ge­les, and that’s about as good as it gets.’’

He also points to our dol­lar’s com­par­a­tive strength against the Bri­tish pound, ex­tra-com­pet­i­tive ho­tel rates, and the in­tro­duc­tion of a $1669 re­turn fare to Lon­don.

Mark Luckey, manag­ing di­rec­tor of We­bSource Pa­cific, says that for those with cash and con­fi­dence, there is far bet­ter value now than 12 months ago.

Air fares are lower be­cause of plung­ing fuel prices and fewer trav­ellers,’’ he says. Low oc­cu­pancy rates have left many ho­tels and whole­salers in a scram­ble for the avail­able travel dol­lars.’’

We­bSource Pa­cific op­er­ates on­line rooms agency room­sXML.com, which com­piles and dis­trib­utes 60,000 on­line ho­tel rooms from many of the world’s big­gest whole­salers. As such, it wit­nesses a broader trend than in­di­vid­ual whole­salers. Luckey says that in New York, rooms are avail­able for a third of their cost one year ago.

Across Europe and Asia, rooms are be­tween 50 per cent and 60 per cent cheaper in many cases,’’ he says.

And Thai­land rep­re­sents awe­some bar­gains as po­lit­i­cal un­rest com­pounds in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial woes.’’

Deals are also to be found at the pres­tige end of the mar­ket. Vic­to­ria Hobbs, the Banyan Tree Group’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Aus­tralia, says this re­sort com­pany is re­spond­ing to the eco­nomic down­turn by in­tro­duc­ing in­no­va­tive and value-added of­fers across its Angsana and Banyan Tree port­fo­lio.

Hobbs makes the point that many peo­ple in the Banyan Tree de­mo­graphic have emerged from the ini­tial crash bet­ter off. Home­own­ers with min­i­mal debt and se­cure em­ploy­ment are ben­e­fit­ing from lower in­ter­est rates and cheaper petrol prices and may have $50-$100 a week more in dis­pos­able in­come.

They are comfortable with ex­ist­ing rates but at­tracted by the prom­ise of more for their money. Banyan Tree’s Thai­land prop­er­ties, for in­stance, are of­fer­ing bonus night deals and up­grade of­fers (tra­di­tion­ally the do­main of the low sea­son) through­out the high sea­son (un­til March 31). www.banyantree.com.

A lo­cal con­se­quence of the eco­nomic anx­i­ety at­tack is that do­mes­tic travel is now more com­pet­i­tive with many pop­u­lar over­seas des­ti­na­tions. This mes­sage is be­ing en­er­get­i­cally pro­moted by Gre­gor & Lewis Be­spoke Travel, headed by Melinda Gre­gor, a for­mer op­er­a­tions man­ager for Aber­crom­bie & Kent.

Gre­gor says the hot over­seas des­ti­na­tions of­fer­ing value for the Aus­tralian dol­lar are Fiji, Bali, Viet­nam and New Zealand, plus cruis­ing, but she is fo­cus­ing on the great do­mes­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties at the mo­ment and rec­om­mends see­ing the clas­sic Aus­tralian lo­ca­tions be­fore Baz Luhrmann’s Aus­tralia brings a new dust­storm of stam­ped­ing tourists to the Kim­ber­ley. www.gre­gor­lewis.com.au. Thai­land: The Tourism Au­thor­ity of Thai­land has launched a Thai­land Su­per Deal pro­mo­tion spot­light­ing a range of in­cen­tive bar­gains at 24 ho­tels in 11 lo­ca­tions. The One Price All Des­ti­na­tions cam­paign fea­tures spe­cial room rates of 2000 baht ($81) a per­son a night, in­clud­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion, break­fast, din­ner and air­port trans­fers. Book­ings un­til Fe­bru­ary 2 for el­i­gi­ble stays un­til June 30. www.thai­land­su­perdeal.com.

Es­cape Travel’s Af­ford­able Phuket Hol­i­day can in­stall you in the Best West­ern Ocean Re­sort above Karon Beach for 10 days from $249 a per­son, twin share, which trans­lates into five free nights. The deal is avail­able un­til Jan­uary 31 for travel be­tween April 1 and Oc­to­ber 31. www.es­cape­travel.com.au. Fiji and Van­u­atu: Farid Hacene of Fiji Spe­cial­ist Hol­i­days is op­ti­mistic about the ef­fect the global eco­nomic cri­sis will have on Fiji’s tourist in­dus­try. His com­pany sends more than 22,000 Aus­tralians to Fiji each year and he feels that in times of un­cer­tainty Fiji’s close prox­im­ity and rep­u­ta­tion for friendly hos­pi­tal­ity will at­tract a big­ger slice of Aus­tralia’s over­seas hol­i­day mar­ket.

Fi­jian op­er­a­tors have re­sponded with at­trac­tive of­fers and pack­ages. An­chor­age Beach Re­sort, 15 min­utes from Nadi Air­port, is of­fer­ing a four-night stay in a wa­ter-view room for $999, in­clud­ing air fares, taxes, all meals, three free tours and a $F100 ($80) drinks credit for each room. Avail­able for travel be­tween Jan­uary 20 and June 30.

Van­u­atu ex­em­pli­fies the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of Pa­cific travel now, with Le Meri­dien Port Vila re­sort of­fer­ing four nights’ ac­com­mo­da­tion from $955 in­clud­ing air fares, taxes and trans­fers. Avail­able for travel be­tween Jan­uary 21 and March 31. www.paci­fi­chol­i­days.com.au. New Zealand: We’ve all har­boured a se­cret yearn­ing for the free­dom and flex­i­bil­ity of a hol­i­day in a mo­torhome, even when we’re stuck be­hind one on a sin­gle-lane road. With its dra­matic scenery and sense of tran­quil­lity, the ul­ti­mate en­vi­ron­ment for camper­van ad­ven­tures is New Zealand’s South Is­land. Watch out for the fly­mo­torhome deals mar­keted by Flight Cen­tre, which has been of­fer­ing flights to Christchurch plus seven days’ hire of a two-berth mo­torhome with un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres from $575. www.flight­cen­tre.com.au. Europe: Swiss In­ter­na­tional Air Lines is a se­ri­ous op­tion for tourists head­ing to Europe, in­clud­ing free 24-day car rental in its $2499 early­bird re­turn fare. The deal is based on per per­son, twin-share book­ings and the Citroen C3 cars can be col­lected and dropped off at 30 lo­ca­tions in France. The cars are brand new with fac­tory war­ranty and com­pre­hen­sive in­sur­ance, and are of­fered on an un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre ba­sis. Fares must be booked and paid for by Jan­uary 31 for travel through­out 2009. www.air­fares­flights.com.au. Aus­tralia: There are plenty of bar­gains to be had at the so­phis­ti­cated end of the mar­ket, too; Gre­gor & Lewis rec­om­mends spe­cial deals on Kim­ber­ley Quest II’s one and two-week Kim­ber­ley coast­line cruises, and a stay­four-pay-three-nights South­ern So­journ of­fer at South­ern Ocean Lodge on Kan­ga­roo Is­land.

Kim­ber­ley Quest II, with a he­li­pad and spa, has nine en­suite cabins and de­liv­ers a high de­gree of in­ti­macy and lux­ury, plus exclusive shore ex­cur­sions and scenic flights. Cruises start at $6676 a per­son, twin share: a 20 per cent sav­ing for book­ings made by March 31.

The South­ern Ocean Lodge ex­pe­ri­ence in­cludes four nights’ lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion, Bollinger fizz on ar­rival, meals and drinks (pres­tige wine list ex­cepted), $100 spa voucher and is­land air­port trans­fers. To March 31; $2700 a per­son twin-share. www.gre­gor­lewis.com.au. Cruis­ing: It’s the ul­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence for the cruise tragic: a six-night trans-At­lantic cross­ing on Cu­nard’s Queen Mary 2. What’s your guess? Bet it’s a lot more than the $999 spe­cial touted by ecruis­ing.travel for se­lected de­par­ture dates be­tween April and Novem­ber, with ei­ther New York or Southamp­ton em­barka­tion. On sale to March 5. www.ecruis­ing.travel.

See Travel&In­dul­gence’s reg­u­larly up­dated daily deals for more bar­gain hol­i­day spe­cials: www.theaus­tralian.com.au/dd.

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