Kiwis cashing in on cheaper breaks overseas
By LOIS WATSON - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 10 June 2007

Cash-rich Kiwis are taking flight overseas as the rising value of the New Zealand dollar makes holidaying abroad more affordable.

Travel agents say it has been a phenomenal year for bookings, with the strong Kiwi dollar and international sporting events like the America's Cup in Spain and the Rugby World Cup in France luring many New Zealanders into holidaying in far-flung lands.

Brent Thomas, retail director of one of New Zealand's biggest travel agencies, the House of Travel, said sales so far this year were up 22% on last year's figures. "It's fair to say the stars are fairly well aligned for our business now," he said.

The Kiwi dollar was strong, unemployment was low, and New Zealanders were feeling optimistic. Their house prices were rising and people were feeling they could afford to spend up on holiday.

"The general feeling out there is that life is pretty good at the moment for the average Kiwi," Thomas said.

The high value of the Kiwi dollar against the US dollar, in particular, had seen the cost of travelling to North America tumble.

Package holidays to Hawaii were down 12% on last year's prices.

People were realising their money could go further and were opting for longer holidays. Short breaks to Australia were still popular but people were now willing to also spend money on holidays in long- haul destinations.

Each week House of Travel was dealing with clients prepared to spend six-figure sums on their holidays.

"People are just generally spending more on their holidays," Thomas said.

"The country is in good heart and the travel industry is reaping the benefits of that. It's still a competitive industry but people are certainly prepared to spend money on travelling."

Flight Centre communications manager Melanie Pohl said bookings for Europe during the northern hemisphere summer were expected to soar as people took advantage of the strong value of the Kiwi dollar.

While rising fuel prices had increased the cost of airline travel, other costs, such as accommodation and sightseeing activities, had fallen. As a consequence many people were opting to stay away longer or to upgrade their accommodation. "We're expecting bookings to be very strong for the coming Europe summer season," Pohl said.

Figures from Christchurch International Airport show international departures in the first four months of this year numbered 283,453 - up nearly 1500 on the same period last year. Nationally, New Zealanders departed on 163,700 short-term trips in April 2007, slightly above the 162,800 departures in April last year.

From here .