Travel agencies

Takeoff for travel agencies as southerners look overseas

Southern travel agents say business is “stuck” as New Zealanders look across borders for a holiday for the first time in years.

Yesterday travel agents said many people were looking to reunite with family abroad, but others wanted to break their cabin fever with a long, lavish holiday.

House of Travel Dunedin retail director Tony Boomer said his agency had as much business in March this year as in March 2019.

The main source of renewed activity was people wishing to reconnect with their families after the border reopened.

People had booked flights all over the world, but places like the UK and Europe were particularly popular.

Many were also considering vacations, and Fiji and Rarotonga were proving “extremely popular” for the winter months ahead.

Many customers opted for a long excursion and not a short break.

Despite high demand, the business operated with only a quarter of the staff it once had.

“We work very long hours.”

Airlines were in a similar situation because there were not enough flights to meet demand, Mr Boomer said.

They may have had enough planes to increase capacity, but aircrews, pilots and airport personnel were also needed.

Although the industry is recovering, it will take a long time before it returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Another issue was rising fuel prices which drove up ticket prices, but there were still options available for those who were patient and flexible.

“If you book early enough you will always get a decent deal.”

Agents we met yesterday shared similar stories, and each noted a surge in business.

Planet Earth Travel Southland and Otago travel agency Khristine Mananes said her phone was ringing almost “24/7”.

There were about four times as many requests as at the start of the year.

Pandemic restrictions meant that it took a lot more work to organize each client’s trip.

Each airline and each country had different regulations for dealing with Covid-19, such as what constituted a valid negative test.

“We have to be very diligent and careful,” she said.

Vincent George Travel agent Rosann Connolly-George said the business had been “stuck”.

There had been a “huge influx” over the past two weeks of people booking two to three month holidays for later in the year.

Many people were opting for nicer hotels or adding extras to get the most out of their trip.

Holidays to the UK, North America and parts of southern Europe were all very popular, she said.

Helloworld Travel Dunedin managing director Andrew Carmody said the agency was “slammed” with business.

He was able to get people on flights, but they had to have a realistic budget and be flexible, he said.

A spokeswoman for Air New Zealand said there was still a lot of uncertainty but the airline had worked hard over the past few months to prepare for the return of international travel.

The airline expects demand to return to 90% of pre-Covid-19 levels by 2025, she said.

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