With the recent decline in the value of the Australian dollar, and fears that it will continue its downward spiral, the impact of earlybird deals for Europe and the UK is more significant than ever. While the AUD’s value has slumped against the pound sterling over the past two years from a high of almost 69 pence to the dollar to about 47 pence, it has been less volatile against the Euro, but still has declined in value from a high of 85 Euro cents to 67.
These significant declines mean the earlybird deals for 2016 now available in the market make perfect sense for Australian travellers. As well as offering attractive discounts on normal airfares and tour prices, they lock in an exchange rate so that clients can be sure of what they are spending on some key components of their holidays.
Earlybird deals are also important measuring sticks for national tourism organisations. Mark Haynes, marketing manager Australia for VisitBritain, said earlybird promotions acted as “a barometer on the state of demand” and were significant in converting bookings for Britain six to nine months ahead of travel.
“They are also a gauge on potential traffic into regional Britain gateways as they highlight a range of entry point destinations. With a large number of carriers offering one-stop direct services from Australia to multiple regional Britain gateways, the promotional report card on earlybird sales can help refine and tweak our marketing activities.”
Regardless of the slump in the dollar’s value, airlines and operators report strong forward bookings to the UK and Europe.
“Our FIT revenue is up over 20 per cent compared to same time last year,” said Sujata Raman, managing director of A&K Europe. “This growth is effectively even higher, because it has been negatively impacted by the drop in sales to Russia.
“The balance of Europe has seen growth in every country, with Italy and Croatia strongest for A&K,” Raman said. “A&K’s Luxury Small Group Journeys have also been strong to European destinations. We anticipate that Europe will continue to be an extremely attractive destination for Australian travellers. The trend is to focus on single destinations rather than trying to cover a wide range in one trip.
“There’s no question that a declining dollar has some impact on sales. However, the fall in the Aussie dollar has been expected for some time and has come as no surprise. We believe that most travellers have anticipated and factored in the falling dollar.”
Justine Lally, head of marketing for the APT Group, said that as a global tour and cruise operator APT was aware how important currency fluctuations could be. “Our advice to travellers is that while one currency might be in flux, there is always another that is holding strong, so don’t be afraid to book. In fact there has never been a better time to do so, especially in destinations such as Europe, where the Euro is performing well and offering excellent value for money.
“At APT we are one of just a few travel operators who have put in place measures to ensure that guests’ holiday prices are protected. For example we offer a guaranteed fixed price. Simply pay your deposit and that secures the price of your trip, regardless of currency movement.”
Fiona Dalton, head of sales for Qantas Holidays said, “Travel bookings to the UK and beyond to Europe have been very strong for us in 2015, buoyed to some extent by the upcoming Rugby World Cup in September. In fact, our forward sales to the region are up 30 per cent on the same time last year.
“We are finding that the lower AUD is a consideration for Australians, but in our experience many consumers are choosing to trade down from 5-star to 4-star hotels to compensate for this. The earlybird fare levels to the region again look very enticing and as a result we expect bookings to remain robust over the coming months,” she said.
“One idea for Australians to make the trip more affordable is to consider flying to the less popular regional airports across UK and Europe such as Manchester and Nice in France, to take advantage of the lower airport taxes on the air tickets. Consumers can then look to facilitate their travel plans across the region by utilising the excellent rail network available for pre-purchase either as point-to-point tickets or passes before departure.”