Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Smart deals for hard times

Times are tight, but clever travellers know there are big discounts to be had, writes Jane E. Fraser.

And now for the good news...

The economic cloud hanging over Australia might be putting a dampener on spending but it does have a silver lining for determined travellers.

Those who keep an eye on the market over coming weeks can expect to find some bargains as operators drop prices to shore up demand. While some are raising prices to offset currency fluctuations, others are starting to discount rates and packages to encourage Australians to keep travelling.

Adding to this are ongoing reductions in airline fuel surcharges, due to a drop in the price of crude oil.

Airlines including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, Air Mauritius and Lufthansa have lowered their fuel surcharges in recent weeks.

There are some good international airfare deals in the market, with carriers sticking to their traditional pattern of releasing earlybird specials towards the end of the year for travel the following year. Flights to Europe are selling from about $1900 and earlybird specials for package tours and cruises are also available.

Singapore Airlines says it has released its earlybird fares earlier than normal, to help restore confidence in the market, and has extended the concept to more destinations.

Even rail operators are getting in on the act, with Rail Plus offering free days and discounts of up to 25 per cent on rail passes for next year.

Agencies that specialise in cruising are reporting unprecedented discounts from the international cruise lines that normally rely on US and British passengers to fill their berths. Cruises from Australian ports are selling at half or even a third of normal rates as cruise lines scramble to boost passenger numbers.

The managing director of Creative Cruising, Ernie Skalsky, says: "In most cases you can get on to the four-and-a-half to five-star vessels for around $100 a day, all inclusive.

"That's tremendous value for money."

Luxury travel provider Abercrombie & Kent is offering a two-for-one deal for Clipper Odyssey South Pacific cruises booked by the end of this month. The cruises are priced in US dollars, so travellers will still feel exchange-rate pain, but the deal represents unusual savings for the traveller.

It is difficult to pinpoint which sectors of the industry are suffering most, with agents and operators reporting mixed results. There is general agreement the market for older travellers has dropped and luxury operators are starting to concede they are losing bookings.

Source : TheAge
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