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