The winter holiday period has only just begun, but experts are warning that if Aussies don’t act quickly – they may be left out in the cold by the time summer rolls around.
With international borders slammed shut and interstate borders still proving unpredictable amid snap lockdowns, more people are looking to holiday within their own state this year – and especially over the always busy Christmas period.
The demand for bookings across the silly season has already been seen in Western Australia, with popular Rottnest Island selling out in minutes for the festive period.
Despite going on sale more than eight months in advance, bookings to stay anywhere on the island over the Christmas and New Year period sold out in minutes with holiday-makers desperate to visit the idyllic location.
RELATED: The $2 lamington worth the road trip
While the island always experiences high demand during the peak season, this coming Christmas saw more bookings than normal.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the week of December 27 to 31 were all booked and paid for by travellers, with the official booking authority listing early May as the next available date to book accommodation for New Year’s Eve.
By the time bookings opened again on May 3, thousands of desperate travellers jumped on to the island’s website with many banked up in the queue and ultimately unable to book.
According to the Rottnest Island Authority, more than 9000 were stuck in online queues during the May sale, while a further 3000 dialled into the call centre and another 300 lined up in person on Rottnest Island as well as in Fremantle.
Now, experts predict popular places along the east coast will face a similar rush in bookings ahead of the silly season.
RELATED: Road trip every Australian should do
Speaking to news.com.au, Wotif managing director Daniel Finch said a clear surge in interest for the summer period had emerged across the country – with majority seeking coastal and country escapes over city stays.
“After an extremely busy summer last year, it’s clear savvy travellers are getting in early to avoid disappointment. Six months out from summer, many local destinations are already seeing a surge in interest,” Mr Finch explained.
“Queensland is once again the most popular option for travellers, as well as the NSW north and south coast, followed by summer favourite Margaret River in Western Australia.
“However, we’re also seeing growing interest for regional destinations like Albury in NSW, The Murray in Victoria, and Gladstone in Queensland, as Aussies look to take their summer adventure inland and venture beyond the typical holiday hot spots, which is fantastic to see.”
Accommodation provider Expedia had also recorded a surge in searches ahead of the Christmas period, with online searches recorded in April and May for booking in December and January having doubled compared to the same period in 2020.
“With the international travel ban likely to be in place for the remainder of the year, travellers may be looking to lock in holidays far in advance to avoid missing out on their preferred destinations,” a spokesperson said.
Some of the most popular searches, according to their data, include the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth, the Sunshine Coast and the Whitsundays.
Heading into Christmas last year, three-in-four Australians planned to travel over the summer period by car with just 15 per cent of respondents nationally said they intended to fly.
While Australian border restrictions remain somewhat unpredictable, intrastate travel will likely remain a popular choice over the holiday period to eliminate the risk of any travel plan disruptions.
Rental car companies struggling to meet demand
But with the increase in road trip adventures across the country, Australians have been warned to get a vehicle locked in early given many rental car companies have sold off part of their fleet amid the pandemic.
Now, with the surge of interest in self-drive holidays – many providers were struggling to buy replacements mainly due to strong private sales and a shortage of new car stocks from manufacturers overseas.
During the Easter holiday period, a spokesperson for Hertz said the demand in the lead up to holidays had seen fleets in some areas – including Perth, Cairns and the entire state of Tasmania – “fully booked”.
“It’s a national problem,” said a spokesperson for the NRMA, which owns national rental car agency Thrifty.
“When the pandemic hit at its worst last year, demand for hire vehicles dropped by about 95 per cent, so rental companies had to reduce their fleets. Hertz reduced its fleet by about 40 per cent.
Post-pandemic, however, demand for domestic tourism increased dramatically – but rental car companies were unable to replenish their fleets accordingly due to a shortage of new and used cars.
“Factors driving demand include the state borders opening up and governments encouraging people to travel through measures such as the federal government’s $1 billion in airfare subsidies to encourage interstate travel,” the Hertz spokesperson told CarAdvice.
Speaking to nine.com.au, NRMA Parks and Resorts’ chief operating officer Matt Bruckner said demand was 30 per cent greater than what they’ve seen previously for the busy silly season.
“We’re seeing a lot of demand for the drive market. People are hopping in their cars … reconnecting with family and friends,” Mr Bruckner said.