From revenge travel to the safest destinations worldwide, ANGELA SAURINE reveals 2022 travel trends for Australian families as the world begins to “live with Covid”
Australian family travel trends for 2022
It’s been dubbed the year of ‘revenge travel’ with pent-up demand for holidays, after two years of lockdowns and border closures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, set to see families keener than ever to hit the road and win their lives back from the virus. But the emergence of a new variant, which has led to record infections worldwide and disrupted many Australians’ summer holiday plans yet again, means the trend may be a bit more tentative than originally anticipated. Futurist Carolyn Childs, from My Travel Research, says the Omicron wave may mean things don’t really pick up until mid-year. “We should be through the worst peak of the Omicron variant by then, so it depends if we get another variant,” she says. She believes Australian families will be more likely than ever to book trips at very short notice in 2022 and spend a lot of time reading terms and conditions. “Undeniably, the desire to travel is still there. Last year, when things calmed down, travel came roaring back.” Ms Childs says families – particularly mums – are more likely than other demographics to shun businesses who accept customers who aren’t vaccinated. Fearing having their holiday cancelled at the last minute or getting stuck somewhere are big barriers for parents, with travel companies being forced to adapt to offer greater flexibility and refunds. “There’s a significant investment if there’s more than two of you,” Ms Childs says.
Travelling in Australia
The Australian Domestic Holidays Survey 2022, conducted in December by online financial broker Savvy, found 77 per cent of respondents were likely to travel in 2022, despite new COVID-19 variants. Road trips were set to remain popular throughout the year, with 43 per cent preferring to travel by car compared to 34 per cent choosing to fly. With many people separated by border closures for much of the pandemic, visiting family and friends was the number one reason to travel for 45 per cent of respondents. But 29 per cent also wanted to discover parts of the country they had never seen. “With the numbers of COVID-19 cases changing daily, it’s understandable that some Australians are hesitant to leave the safety of home,” Savvy’s managing director Bill Tsouvalas says. “However, it is encouraging that three-quarters of us wish to holiday in Australia – indicating that we are familiar with living and travelling with the virus. COVID-19 is no longer the new normal, it’s just everyday life.”
NSW and Queensland remain the most popular destinations for domestic holidays, according to consumer research company Glow Australia. And despite the state’s tough stance on borders, interest in travelling to Western Australia has barely waned.
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Outback is in
While favourite coastal destinations including the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in Queensland and NSW’s north and south coast were booked out over summer, more Australians are heading inland for their holidays. Wotif managing director Daniel Finch says the company was seeing increasing interest for regional destinations, exceeding pre-pandemic levels. “Destinations like the Hunter Valley, Snowy Mountains, and Blue Mountains in NSW; and Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, offer some of the most breathtaking scenery in Australia,” he says. “Victoria is seeing the most popularity when it comes to inland holidays, with destinations such as Ballarat, Bendigo, Mildura and Wangaratta trending on Wotif.com when compared to previous years.”
Hottest overseas travel destinations for 2022
While New Zealand was the most desired international destination earlier in the pandemic, countries such as Fiji have soared in popularity since reopening, thanks largely to the impressive COVID-19 protocols they have put in place, including high vaccination of those who work in the tourism industry and testing at resorts. Flight Centre general manager Australia Kelly Spencer says Fiji and Bali were the most enquired about overseas travel destinations. “Many family-friendly resorts in Hawaii and Fiji are enticing families with bonus offerings such as kids staying, playing and eating free,” she says. “Different countries are issuing ever-changing rules about such things as vaccine certification, PCR testing, and mandatory health insurance, making travel planning a minefield for people to navigate. We’re meeting customers every day who’ve hardly ever used a travel agent to help plan their trips and holidays but have come to us because all the new post-COVID travel rules and requirements are so daunting. We’re experts with this stuff, and we go to great lengths to stay up-to-date so we can decipher it all for you.”
Countries with reciprocal health care agreements
Countries with reciprocal health care agreements that cover urgent medical care, and a percentage of medical costs, are also becoming more attractive in the new world – and, aside from New Zealand and the UK, they aren’t necessarily those you would expect. Despite also being part of the Commonwealth, Canada, for example, doesn’t have an agreement with Australia. If you need medical assistance there, you or your travel insurance company must pay the full cost of treatment. Many hospitals won’t treat you until you, your family or travel insurer pay upfront. All the other nations with a reciprocal health agreement with Australia are in Europe, including Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden. But you still need travel insurance that includes cover for medical evacuations when travelling to these countries as they aren’t covered by reciprocal health care agreements. Some travel insurance policies now provide limited cover if you or someone you’re travelling with gets COVID-19, or if the accommodation or tour operator you’ve booked has to shut down due to the virus. According to consumer advocacy group CHOICE, it’s likely to be limited to medical, quarantine and sometimes cancellation costs if you contract COVID-19. But it’s unlikely to cover you for cancellation due to government travel bans.
Countries with high vaccination rates
Nations with high vaccination rates are also becoming increasingly popular. According to the New York Times World Vaccination Tracker, the United Arab Emirates (which includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi) is the most vaccinated country in the world, with 94 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. It’s followed by Brunei, Portugal, Chile, Malta, mainland China, Cuba, South Korea, Cambodia and Singapore. New Zealand is 14th on the list and Australia 17th.
The way families travel is also set to be different in 2022, with a move towards nature and the great outdoors, sustainability, off-grid and remote travel, wellness and transformation. “We are re-emerging from the pandemic with a desire to explore the world differently,” Slow Travel author Penny Watson says. “After months of lockdowns, self-isolation and home schooling, we are now dreaming of places where we can physically distance on walks, hikes and adventures amid the fresh air in a natural landscape … we’re researching ways to connect with local people and culture in place of now-taboo tick-box destinations with big crowds. Slow travel is the opportunity to scratch that itch.”