Australian holidays in crisis amid worrying surge in prices

Holidays in Australia are in crisis as the cost of accommodation blows out to eye-watering levels and airports are hit with huge numbers of cancelled flights.

Holidays in Australia are in crisis as the cost of accommodation blows out to eye-watering levels and airports are hit with huge numbers of cancelled flights amid a crippling worker shortage.

It hasn’t exactly been cheap to holiday domestically for many years, but staggering figures show that it has gone from bad to worse in the past 13 months.

Data from trivago – which records hotel price shifts from more than 400 booking sites for over 2 million hotels around the world in its Hotel Price Index – has uncovered an astronomical increase in the price of an Aussie getaway.

It shows the average price of a hotel in Sydney has surged almost 25 per cent over the past year while hotel rooms in Melbourne have seen a 24 per cent spike in the same period.

This means the average cost of a hotel room in Sydney is now above $240 per night, up from $206 a night a year ago. For Melbourne, the average cost is now $239, up from $200 in August last year.

If you’re looking for adventure you’ll be paying more too as the average cost of ski holiday accommodation in Australia has risen by 17 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to KAYAK.

Chaos at the airports

It’s not only hotels where Australians are encountering problems when they travel domestically with huge numbers of flights being cancelled.

New figures show one in every 13 Qantas flights was cancelled in May as the airline battled staffing issues after laying off huge numbers of workers during the pandemic.

Domestic on-time performance statistics for May – published by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) – show Qantas cancelled 7.6 per cent of scheduled flights that month, up from 5.1 per cent in April.

It isn’t the only airline dropping flights either with Virgin Australia cancelling 5.1 per cent of flights in May.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce said the airline was working through the issues it faced, admitting it was “a bit rusty” after coming out the pandemic.

“We are adjusting our schedule and bringing extra resources,” Mr Joyce said at an international airline conference in Qatar this week.

“We are, at the moment, fixing the operational issues to get our on-time performance back to where it was before Covid-19. And we think in the weeks ahead, we will have done that.

“That is the same issue I think the entire industry is facing and there is that restarting of a business that has been in hibernation for a couple of years. And I don’t think it should be a surprise that it is a bit rusty.”

Staff shortages to blame

The problems faced by hotels are also due to staffing issues too according to the CEO of Tourism Accommodation Australia, Michael Johnson, who said a surge in accommodation bookings had come at a time when the industry was still struggling to find workers.

“We’re still over 100,000 working holiday-makers down on pre-restriction levels, and more than 150,000 international students down. Just these two alone is a big proportion of hotel and hospitality staff,” he told The Guardian.

Mr Johnson said the staff shortages were forcing many hotels to work at 70 to 80 per cent capacity, with current staff already stretched to the limit.

“I know hotels that are still looking for 30 to 40 staff, instead of running two restaurants they are only running one,” he said. “They’re not taking conference bookings, because they just don’t have the staff to manage those bookings.”

Aussies still itching to travel

Despite all this and the rising cost of living, Australians have not been deterred from travelling, according to Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker.

More than one-in-two (57 per cent) Aussies are planning a getaway in the next 12 months, including 32 per cent who plan to travel within Australia, 12 per cent who plan to travel internationally, and 13 per cent who plan to travel both domestically and overseas.

This is up from 49 per cent in December.

According to Finder’s Covid Comfort Indicator, Aussies rank their level of comfort with overseas travel at 4.3 out of 10, up from 2.7 in January. They feel slightly more at ease with domestic travel, ranking it 6.1 out of 10.

“The travel industry is finally seeing some normalcy for the first time in over two years. People aren’t as concerned about prices, they just want to travel again,” said Angus Kidman, travel expert at Finder.

Tips for saving money

Mr Kidman encouraged travellers to shop around for travel deals in order to keep costs down.

“You can save by not paying extra for checked baggage, but remember the airline will often check if you’ve gone over the allowed weight at the gate. Pack lightly and invest in a luggage scale,” he said.

“Regular airline sales can definitely help you save. Virgin Australia’s Happy Hour sale usually runs on Thursdays from 4pm until 11pm, while Jetstar’s Friday Fare Frenzy typically kicks off on Fridays 12pm to 8pm.”

He said to sign up to your favourite travel sites and the airlines’ newsletters and social media channels so you can quickly snap up sale fares.

“If you have specific destinations in mind, check the regular prices now. That way you’ll know if that sale price is really a bargain,” he said.

“The key to making the most of any travel sale is to be flexible with dates and open-minded about destinations. Don’t forget to book your travel insurance as soon as you’ve locked in your trip.”

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