’Tis the sea­son to go con­ti­nen­tal

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LISA ALLEN

HOL­I­DAY-MAK­ERS who are dream­ing of a white Christ­mas this year, per­haps tak­ing in a se­lec­tion of pretty, cob­ble­stoned Euro­pean cities af­ter a few days ski­ing the slopes of St Moritz or Zer­matt, are in luck.

Ho­tel rates fell in 19 of 28 Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions sur­veyed by Ho­tels.com in the first half of 2012 com­pared to the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod last year. Hote­liers in Rome are slash­ing rates by an av­er­age 12 per cent to about $189 a night, Vi­en­nese hote­liers are lop­ping prices by 11 per cent to about $150 and in Florence ex­pect cuts of 8 per cent to about $175 a night.

Tar­iffs in Venice, al­ways one of Europe’s most ex­pen­sive des­ti­na­tions, have fallen 7 per cent to an av­er­age of $233 a night.

Euro­pean des­ti­na­tions hold­ing their av­er­age tar­iffs in­clude Lon­don at $214, Madrid at $143 and Prague at $132, while small rises have been recorded in Paris (up 3 per cent to $227) and Mu­nich (up 10 per cent to $194). ‘‘There’s never been a more af­ford­able time to visit Europe and we ex­pect Aus­tralians will take ad­van­tage of this over the next 12 months,’’ says Ho­tels.com’s Hong Kong-based vice pres­i­dent Jo­han Svanstrom.

He at­tributes the price falls in Europe’s top ho­tels to the eu­ro­zone cri­sis, which he says is weak­en­ing de­mand among cash-strapped do­mes­tic trav­ellers.

Trafal­gar’s Geneva-based global chief ex­ec­u­tive Gavin Toll­man, who was in Sydney this week to launch the com­pany’s 2013 Europe and Bri­tain First Class hol­i­days pro­gram, ad­vises that it’s not just Euro­pean ho­tel costs that are com­ing down. Trafal­gar will be drop­ping group tour prices by up to 14 per cent next year.

Trafal­gar is ‘‘ab­so­lutely’’ at­tract­ing more clients from down un­der, Toll­man says.

‘‘For Aus­tralians trav­el­ling to Europe to­day, the value you can get with the strength of the dol­lar has never been greater. We are see­ing more Aus­tralians book­ing tours, [par­tic­u­larly] over Christ­mas and the new year pe­riod.

‘‘The other big change is that tra­di­tion­ally Aus­tralians have booked very far in ad­vance [but] we have seen an in­crease in last-minute de­mand.’’

Claudia Rossi Hudson, owner of Sydney’s Mary Rossi Travel, says, ‘‘Europe is so hot right now. Our cus­tomers love the fact that Europe is much bet­ter value — their dol­lar goes so much fur­ther.’’

Rossi Hudson also says that Christ­mas is a pop­u­lar time for Aus­tralian fam­i­lies to get away and ‘‘they usu­ally com­bine [Euro­pean win­ter] hol­i­days with ski­ing’’.

She adds that the ‘‘Christ­mas shop­ping and fes­tive lights in Europe al­ways are spe­cial’’ and Mary Rossi Travel also has a lot of sin­gle clients ‘‘who like to go in small groups’’ at that time of year.

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