’Tis the season to go continental
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.