New Zealand’s plan to reopen to vaccinated Aussies next week will be a massive confidence boost for travellers, according to Intrepid’s managing director, Brett Mitchell.
In an exclusive interview with Travel Weekly, Mitchell said there has been a massive increase in interest for trips to New Zealand since its reopening date was set.
The adventure travel company has not yet seen a spike in bookings, but that was expected.
“Booking will start coming through from June for December travel, so we didn’t expect to see a spike in bookings just yet,” Mitchell said.
“So the fact that we’re seeing a spike in web sessions is a good sign.
“That’s the pattern we’ve seen as soon as countries open up. There’s clearly pent up demand sitting there.”
Particular favourites for Intrepid customers have so far been Southern Europe, including Italy, Spain and Croatia as well as Morocco in the Middle East.
That said, Mitchell reckons Asia will be the “next big thing”, with bookings expected to skyrocket in the second half of this year.
“We’re hearing Japan will be open in June, but if we start to see the broader Southeast Asia opening up, we would expect to see some really big jumps in interest,” he said, adding that Japan has had the most interest among Aussie travellers.
But the real hero for Intrepid over the past year has been domestic trips, which experienced a massive 600 per cent jump in demand.
The majority of those bookings have come from new customers, with only about 25 – 30 per cent booked using travel credits to travel domestically instead of overseas.
Come 12 April, when New Zealand officially reopens for vaccinated Aussies, Mitchell predicts there will be a shift in booking behaviour.
“When you’ve got arguably one of the most lockdown countries in the world opening up to international it gives everyone confidence that the world is starting to open up,” he said.
“And our view is that it won’t go backwards from here.”
Travel trends have undeniably changed over the past two years, but one thing remains the same; travellers want single country trips that favour a slower, more in-depth exploration of a destination.
“Certainly that trend was happening pre-COVID,” Mitchell said.
“But it makes sense that it is continuing because of the complexity of having to cross international borders. That’s the feedback we’re seeing.
“Customers want more time off the beaten track, travelling like a local and that means you can’t rush around, see the sights and rush back. You need to spend more time and settle in.”
Like many travel companies, Intrepid’s biggest focus at the moment is to scale up and prepare for the rebound in travel.
“We’re busy trying to grow our team and attract great talent back into the industry,” Mitchell continued.
“It’s going to be a big challenge I think for the whole travel industry.”