With Greater Sydney in the throes of a COVID-19 outbreak one traveller's loss is proving another's gain when it comes to last-minute availability on heavily booked domestic trips by World Expeditions.
As would-be trekkers from outbreak affected areas cancel their trips - up to 40 per cent of World Expeditions total bookings - availability is opening up on the previously sold-out pack-free walking tours such as the wait-listed Northern Territory Larapinta Trail (departing from next Sunday, July 18).
World Expeditions chief executive Sue Badyari says: "While it's heart-breaking for travellers from Greater Sydney, where the lockdown has forced cancellations, the situation presents an opportunity for people from other regions, many of whom have been trying unsuccessfully to get a place on a trip.
"So many people are keen to break out of the confines of lockdowns and travel restrictions to immerse themselves in nature," Ms Badyari says.
"It's as much about mental health, as it is about the physical outlet and exploration."
Many trekkers have been waiting almost a year for the chance to walk the trail, after border restrictions forced the cancellation of all but 15 departures during 2020 on the World Expeditions itinerary.
Intrepid Travel too, has last minute availability on its "Great Kimberley Overland" trip departing on July 22 after cancellations from Greater Sydney travellers.
The 13-day trip includes the multi-coloured walls of Geikie Gorge and a guided hike through the King Leopold Ranges to Manning Gorge.
The company has also announced its early-bird line-up for 2022. The new tour dates include the Cradle Mountain Overland Track and Larapinta Trek which similarly have been fully booked for months for the 2021 season.
Managing director at Intrepid Travel, Brett Mitchell says: "With the borders still shut for the foreseeable future we want to ensure local travellers can book something to truly look forward to which is why we have decided to launch our 2022 trip offering in advance."
In response to the Larapinta Trail's growing popularity, which takes up to 5000 walkers a year, the Northern Territory government will introduce a multi-day walking fee permit system from October.
Permit fees will assist with track maintenance on the Central Australian trail, which runs for 230 kilometres along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges.