Demand for leisure travel has roared back to pre-pandemic levels and the most popular holiday destination this winter is the Gold Coast, according to data from Australia’s biggest travel booking site Booking.com.
About 72 per cent of post-lockdown travellers are chasing local adventures over international travel, said Asia-Pacific managing director of Booking.com Laura Houldsworth.
Booking.com Asia Pacific managing director Laura Houldsworth said tourism recovery in the region is lagging Europe and the US.Credit:Rhett Wyman
“I think for Australia, we’re seeing different types of trends after some of the longest lockdowns in the world,” she said. “There’s a desire now to just say yes to travel, but our data still shows it’s very, very heavily domestic.”
Melbourne and Sydney followed the Gold Coast as the second and third most popular domestic destinations. Cairns and Brisbane also made the top five and, after two cancelled snow seasons, Jindabyne ranked sixth as families flocked back to the slopes.
Houldsworth said holiday travel had bounced back globally despite chaotic airports and a surge in BA.5 COVID-19 cases.
“There were discussions at the end of last year at a conference in Singapore asking, when do we get back to the ’19 levels [of leisure travel]? Is it ’23, ’24? No, it’s ’22.”
The Gold Coast is Australia’s favourite travel destination for post-lockdown sunseekers.Credit:iStock
Booking.com holiday room bookings surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time in the June quarter thanks to a surge in northern hemisphere summer travel.
But tough borders and enduring COVID-19 caution in the region had stymied a full travel bounceback in the Asia-Pacific, said Houldsworth.
“The north is still very closed. In China, borders are still 100 per cent closed, Japan probably 90 per cent closed, Taiwan the same. So we’ve increasingly seen this disparity in the region and therefore the rest of the globe. The Asia Pacific is falling behind the US and Europe in terms of recovery.”
Booking.com’s recent Travel Confidence Index polled 11,000 travellers across 11 countries in the Asia Pacific about how enthusiastic they felt about travelling internationally and accepting inbound visitors.
India ranked first on the confidence index. Many of India’s keen travellers are coming to Australia, making it now the second most common country of origin for arrivals into Australia behind New Zealand. Before the pandemic, India ranked seventh.
Japan seemed content with staying locked down, ranking last on the Travel Confidence Index, and Australia ranked fifth.
Houldsworth said that alternative accommodation such as “homestays and tree houses” had become a key market for Booking.com, which has traditionally focused on hotels.
“People are looking for something unique, something different. Globally, we have about 29 million listings, of which over 6 million are now alternative accommodations versus our core traditional hotel properties.”
Cost and flexibility were the main concern for pandemic-fatigued travellers, said Houldsworth.
“Flexibility is the key. We’ve seen that globally as a trend. We had our biggest bookings for the upcoming European summer peak but a lot of those bookings were flexible bookings. People are wanting clarity and refund policies. They want to make sure that money is secure.”
Despite an enduring preference for domestic travel, about 40 per cent of Australians expected to travel overseas within the next six months. Five out of the top 10 international destinations for Australian travellers using Booking.com were in Bali.
“Beyond that, we see Singapore, London, Paris and Italy,” said Houldsworth.
Booking Holdings, the site’s parent company, posted a US$857 million net income for the quarter ending June 30, up 99 per cent from the same time last year. Gross travel bookings for the second quarter hit US$34.5 billion, surpassing Wall Street analysts’ expectations of US$32.96 billion.
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