Luxury travel experts weigh in on the TransTasman Bubble

Spencer, Galloway, Merricks, Brandon, Londregan share their views with LATTE

Confirmation this week of the launch of a reciprocal quarantine-free TransTasman Travel Bubble between Australia and New Zealand from 19 April 2021 has been warmly welcomed by luxury travel specialists.

LATTE sought feedback from a group of Virtuoso network member agencies to gauge their views on the arrangement, and to find out what products and destinations they foresee will prove popular for discerning Australian travellers biting at the bit to travel internationally again.

Clients of Sydney-based corporate agency Spencer Travel were quick off the mark to secure their New Zealand holidays, Managing Director, Penny Spencer said.

“We’ve been wanting something like this for a while. It’s great,” Spencer said of the AU/NZ bubble.

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“A lot of our clients have already travelled extensively through Australia and have explored their own backyard in the past. The majority of our clients are very well travelled. They’ve already ticked off Kakadu, Broome and the likes, so they want somewhere different other than Australia. This bubble will be good for them.”

“Yesterday we had quite a few calls, people saying book us for the September school holidays, book us for skiing, There is certainly a strong appetite for New Zealand,” she told LATTE.

“They’re just excited to have somewhere new to go!”

Paroa Bay, Bay of Islands | Credit: Paroa Bay Winery

Spencer said luxury experiences and the Luxury Lodges of New Zealand properties such as Huka Lodge, Matakauri Lodge and Cape Kidnappers, would be favoured highly.

Private Homes in the regions around the Bay of Islands, Queenstown and Wanaka, some of which have 8- or 9-bedrooms and offer ultra-luxury touches such as resident chefs and helicopter transfers, will be hot property for groups and families, Spencer tips.

Clients who have missed out on their ski holiday to Aspen, or their annual European vacation in 2021 due to the pandemic are cashed up and “ready to splurge and do New Zealand in style,” Spencer said.

Mt Hutt, Canterbury | Credit: Miles Holden/Tourism New Zealand

Flight Centre Travel Group’s Danielle Galloway, GM of Premium Leisure (Travel Associates, Franchise and FCTG Independent) said there is pent up demand for international travel and although still close to home, New Zealand offers some exceptional holidays and experiences for clients who aren’t ready to commit to booking Europe, the US or other countries right now.

“Most importantly however is the assurance that the corridor will remain open between Australia and New Zealand, or clients will be hesitant to commit to bookings,” Galloway said.

She told LATTE this week’s TransTasman Bubble framework provides FCTG’s Premium Leisure brands with the confidence to push travel between Australia and New Zealand.

“Quarantine-free travel now allows more clients to consider booking leisure travel without the fear of border closures and disrupted plans.

“It’s a safe destination, with the right healthcare approach and will certainly allow clients to book future travel with much greater confidence.

Skyscape, Mackenzie County | Credit: Miles Holden/Tourism New Zealand

“It’s also about educating the travelling public that travel agents do provide an exceptional service for clients when it comes to completely managing travel plans from researching and recommending the right accommodation and experiences on the ground, to budgeting, ensuring the right connections are met, and of course looking out for the right ‘peace of mind’ elements that clients now expect. We are advocating on behalf of our clients in the case that anything goes wrong.”

While she expects an early run on ski destinations and self-drive holidays, Galloway believes there will be clients “holding back to allow the open borders to ‘settle in’ to its new rhythm”.

Galloway said New Zealand’s Golf Resorts, Ski Lodges, wine experiences and “anywhere allowing immersion in nature” will be hot in the luxury market.

“The most important thing is that we do get clients travelling and enjoying that incredible feeling of freedom and love of new experiences, and supporting those amazing suppliers and destinations who’ve had a very tough time of late in this industry,” Galloway added.

Mau Whenua Lodge, Wanaka | Credit: Major Domo/Tourism New Zealand

“This is an exciting development in our road to recovery, it is, if not the light at the end of the tunnel certainly a lamp to guide us in the right direction,” said Karen Merricks, Co-Founder and Managing Director of MTA-Mobile Travel Agents.

“Providing we can all make it happen, that Governments don’t knee jerk to the inevitable COVID cases that will occur (hopefully in very small numbers) we think that this announcement provides optimism for the travel industry and in particular the much-affected travel agents.”

Merricks said New Zealand is an enticing destination for Australians.

“In the days since the announcement we’ve seen a sharp increase in enquiries and bookings for New Zealand so the appetite for travel is definitely there. The new direct routes announced (Auckland-Hobart, Auckland-Cairns by Air New Zealand and Melbourne/Brisbane-Queenstown by Qantas – the latter routes previously operated only in the ski season) making it even easier to travel to New Zealand than ever before.

“We think the COVID management plans and vaccine rollouts across both countries will further reassure people travel is safe.”

Nugget Point, Catlins, Otago | Credit: Miles Holden/Tourism New Zealand

David Brandon, Managing Director, Savenio says the AU/NZ travel bubble is a “great start in the slow process of moving on from COVID”.

“Much of our business is overseas travel and the impact on our turnover has been significant.”

“This will help us along the way to return to some form of normality. The client just wants to get on a plane, use their passport and have a great holiday,” Brandon told LATTE.

He said the arrangement provides Savenio with the confidence to endorse TransTasman travel and the venture is “very positive moving forward,” however he is wary of potential border closures and snap lockdowns due to COVID outbreaks within different states and the issues that could potentially arise.

“But overall, the positives will out way the negatives,” he added.

Savenio’s clients are “very much looking forward to dusting off their passports,” he quipped, adding he believes Queenstown, Fiordland, Auckland, the Bay of Islands and the wine regions of Hawkes Bay and Marlborough region will be zones highly sought, with guests eyeing upmarket hotels, luxury retreats, private homes and villas.

Waipara, Canterbury | Credit: Graeme Murray/Tourism New Zealand

Michael Londregan, Senior Vice President of Operations for the Virtuoso network is tipping a high level of experiential travel, family connectivity and couples getting away for a romantic break across the ditch.

“There are families that haven’t got together and they want to use New Zealand as a location to unite. There’s a tonne of people that haven’t been able to have a wedding or missed a honeymoon, so they’ll take advantage of the bubble as a romance product.”

Another sector Londregan believes Australians will be keen to taste in New Zealand’s epicurean offering.

“I think there’s a real opportunity with this bubble opening up to focus on the great food and wine scene, farm-to-plate and gourmet trail experiences.”

Lead image: Waiheke Island, Auckland | Credit: Miles Holden/Tourism New Zealand

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