When it comes to the winter school holidays this year, Bali is out and Queensland is in.
Search data from several major travel booking sites shows that international destinations have all but disappeared from Australians' travel plans this winter, replaced by holidays closer to home.
Expedia hotel search data for the July school holiday period (June 27 to July 20) shows why Queensland may want to reconsider keeping its borders shut to interstate visitors, with three of the top five destinations in the Sunshine State.
Sydney was Expedia's number one destination, followed by the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Melbourne and Cairns.
In 2019, international destinations were far more popular with Bali the number one most searched destination for the same period. Fiji was at number five, Singapore at six, London at seven, Hawaii at eight and Tokyo at 10.
This year, the only international destination in the top 10 is the New Zealand adventure holiday destination Queenstown, which did not make the list last year. Travel to New Zealand as part of a "trans-Tasman bubble" has been flagged by both countries' governments, with Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham saying this week that New Zealand was currently the first, and only, international market Australia would consider opening up to.
Booking.com showed a similar spike in interest in domestic destinations, with the percentage of Australian destinations "wish listed" on the site rising from less than a third for this time last year (28 per cent) to just under half this year (48 per cent).
Melbourne and Sydney led the domestic destinations list for Booking.com, but again Queensland featured prominently with the Gold Coast (No.3), Brisbane (No.4), Cairns (No.7) and Port Douglas (No.9).
Meanwhile, flight search data from Skyscanner showed that, while some international destinations were still high on the list, key holiday destinations had disappeared from the top 10 compared with last year.
Flights to London, still being operated by several airlines to repatriate citizens, were second only behind Melbourne in the top 10 flights routes from Sydney Airport. Again, the possibility of a trans-Tasman bubble has driven interest in travel to New Zealand, with flights to Auckland and Queenstown among the most searched, while holiday destinations like Bali, Tokyo and Singapore dropped out of the top 10 compared to last year.
"While overall travel demand remains low, we are seeing some promising initial signs of intent in our search data for domestic and regional travel," said Paul Whiteway, Skyscanner's senior director for Asia-Pacific. "Going forward, travel providers will need to instil consumer confidence through enhanced safety measures when new routes or destinations become available."
If you are able to travel interstate for the school holidays, will you be able to afford it? Air fares are significantly more expensive than before the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting travel restrictions, with some Sydney-Melbourne return fares costing more than $1000 in June.
However, fares later in the month, including into the school holidays, drop dramatically as airlines anticipate capacity to return as restrictions ease.
Qantas indicated it would be ready to increase its capacity to 40-50 per cent of normal in July provided restrictions on interstate travel were relaxed. The airline has also controversially stated that it would not implement social distancing on flights, instead opting for the use of masks.
Several surveys have shown that, despite the coronavirus outbreak, Australians are itching to start travelling again, but remain sceptical about when international travel might resume (beyond New Zealand).
However, Expedia's data shows our favourite international destinations are back on the radar when it comes to travel for early next year. While the Gold Coast is the number one destination for travel in January 2021, it is followed by Bali, Fiji and Hawaii as the four most popular holiday spots.
The 10 most popular holiday destinations for the July school holidays (and for the same time last year)
- Sydney (Bali)
- Gold Coast (Melbourne)
- Sunshine Coast (Gold Coast)
- Melbourne (Sydney)
- Cairns (Fiji)
- Snowy Mountains (Singapore)
- Queenstown (London)
- Margaret River (Hawaii)
- Brisbane (Cairns)
- Port Douglas (Tokyo)