Overseas travel during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: Few Australians willing to travel overseas, survey finds

Australians are known for their appetite to travel but even in the midst of a pandemic there is still a small number willing to venture beyond the so called "bubble" of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

In a recent survey conducted by PayPal, just four per cent of Australians said they would feel comfortable travelling internationally between October and December (1% per cent between July and August, and 2% in September) beyond these regions despite COVID-19.

The Travel and Tourism Trends Report, conducted in early June, looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Australians' attitudes toward travelling now and post-pandemic. The report, which forms part of a broader research into Australian consumer behaviour to be released in August, revealed an overwhelming confidence for local travel now with 65 per cent feeling comfortable about intra-state travel and 25 per cent for interstate travel.

Within the proposed "travel bubble", 20 per cent said they felt comfortable travelling to New Zealand right now with 10 per cent saying yes to the Pacific Islands.

Hannah (who did not want her surname published), 28, from Newcastle and currently living in Sydney was meant to travel to Fiji in April and said she would consider New Zealand and the Pacific islands as future destinations if cases remained low and controlled.

"I would go to places like the Pacific islands because they don't have any cases," she says.

"I would also probably go to Europe because the cases numbers there are very low too, but somewhere like America where their case numbers are so high, I just don't really want to go even though I've been to the US before."

Even destinations such as Italy and Spain are not entirely off the cards, but Hannah says she would rather travel to countries with lower cases numbers. "It depends on how low the cases numbers stay. If Italy were to spike again, I wouldn't go and if Spain were to spike again, I probably wouldn't go," she says.

The report also found the majority of those surveyed (25 per cent) said it was too hard to predict when they would feel at ease to travel overseas, with 21 per cent saying they would feel comfortable travelling in the second of half next year.

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"I would love to go to Vietnam. It has always been on my list as well - Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia," Hannah said.

"Maybe even Greece," she said, adding that it would be a more likely trip for 2021.

Hannah said destinations around the Pacific region, like Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand, are more likely on her travel cards this year.

The uncertainty around when and where to go was consistent with the findings of research conducted by product comparison site Mozo.com.au which found 78 per cent of those surveyed avoiding buying cheap airline tickets due travel cancellations and bans.

Mozo Director Kirsty Lamont says the uncertainty and the "recent refund and travel credit carnage many people have suffered" far outweighs any possible savings from cheap fares in people's minds.

The data shows that three-out-of-four Australians wouldn't buy discounted plane tickets and close to a third would no longer book travel through a third party booking site, citing the possibility of cancellations and applicable terms and conditions.

Although COVID-19 most likely won't be covered under a travel insurance policy, Lamont says it's concerning that many people are turning their back on travel insurance altogether.

She advises that amid the uncertainty, Australians should still consider a travel insurance policy that suits the trip they're taking.

Travel and Tourism Trends Report research was produced by PayPal Australia, based on a study conducted by ACA Research which consisted of a 15-minute online survey of Australians aged 18 and older. In addition, ACA Research conducted a 10-minute online survey of business decision makers within Australian small and medium B2C retailers and merchants. The research was in field from Friday 29th May to Monday 8th June 2020 with over 1000 respondents.

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