Vaccination certificates, pre- and post-trip tests plus a plethora of regulations have made moving around our planet difficult.

Which explains why there has been a surge in the number of holiday packages booked through travel agents. Rather than negotiate complex health protocols, travel insurance and vaccination requirements for various overseas countries, upmarket agency Travel Associates is seeing an increase in bookings from small groups made up of mainly families, close-knit friends and multi-generational parties.

“Clients want to be together but in more remote places since Covid. We have had a number of clients interested in luxury villa rentals and homestays. People are wanting to stay in beautiful locations in spacious estates and acreages where they feel safe.

“We have also seen private buy-outs of certain properties for family/friendship groups. And we expect to see this more in places like Fiji, for example, at Kokomo Island and Royal Davui.

“We certainly did see a lot of take-up of charter private jets over the past months,” said Anna Burgdorf, Flight Centre’s marketing manager for premium brands.

“Many clients are taking advantage of interest-free loans to lock in two to three holidays in advance. We are finding that people don’t want to miss any other milestone occasions, so are ready to lock things in, well in advance, so they don’t miss out and given there will be international shortages, this is certainly a smart move.

“Clients are also keen to book trips that offer something unique and extraordinary. Clients are looking particularly for less crowded destinations, for longer duration stays as the avid client has waited so long to go away,” Ms Burgdorf added.

David Mannix, managing director of Arcadia Expeditions, said: ”We are seeing a trend towards people booking international travel with travel agents, even with people who traditionally used to book all their travel independently.

“The travel environment is now more complex than ever, with different rules and regulations covering every aspect of a holiday, from airline stipulations on vaccinations and testing to each country having their own set of rules about entering and leaving.

“Travel agents are being utilised so widely now because they are well informed about the constantly changing rules and regulations and are well placed to act quickly and decisively in the best interest of clients.

“Travellers are starting to understand that you need a professional,” said Mr Mannix.

“There is also a demand now to go to more remote destinations and an agent can provide the best advice and pricing on complex international air routes. Some of our expeditions start in some obscure places like Ashgabat, Santiago de Cuba and Khartoum – what we are finding is that our clients are much happier for a travel agent to take out the hassle of organising travel to these types of destinations.”

For Arcadia Expeditions, the top three best-selling holidays for Australians in 2022/2023 are:

1. Georgia: A Food and Wine Revolution. Led by John Wurdeman, one of Georgia’s expatriate winemakers, the expedition traces the evolution and revolution of Georgian food and wine. The small group of travelling dinner party will sample the country’s best gastronomical experiences.

2. Botswana, Okavango Through the Lens. Led by filmmaker and wildlife photographer Greg Nelson, this expedition immerses travellers in the astonishing biosphere of the Okavango Delta, exploring bush, desert and water environments. Learn new skills from Mr Nelson who will help you create an new personal photo book

3. Iran, End of Empire: Alexander v the Persians. This expedition explores the incredible story of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia. Travellers will immerse themselves in the bazaars, food, street life and extraordinary architecture of Iran. Local archaeologists will conduct exclusive access to fascinating new dig sites.

Sue Thorley, founder of Ski Travel Brands and Ski Holidays and Tours, said pre-pandemic about 60 to 70 per cent of clients booked their own airfares and get the ski company to book the specialty ski components.

“Unless clients are using loyalty points, almost all clients are now looking for an all-inclusive package including airfares.

“Why? Because of the maze of border status, COVID-testing protocols and how to get travel insurance. In the past two to three weeks we have seen a shift to the VFR – visiting friends and family [and] a number of empty-nesters, grey nomads are committing to ski holidays and Canadian packages from February 2022 onwards.

“Our three bestsellers are: 10-day Whistler ski holidays in four-star hotels like Westin Whistler; Banff/Lake Louise, the iconic winter holidays in the Canadian Rockies which are very romantic with lots of couples who are retired; Club Med Charlevoix Quebec is a new ski resort for families which opens next month.”

Michael Gazal, executive general manager of TravelManagers Australia, said that Fiji continues to be a popular holiday destination for Australian families and couples with bordering reopening on December 1.

Bill Peach Journeys has seen high demand for Australian Outback locations, including the Kimberley, Red Centre and Flinders Ranges. The company’s Southern Barrier Reef Air Tour and Southern Explorer Air Tour, where travellers fly in private chartered aircraft, have also seen a spike in bookings.

Shelley Beasley, Webjet’s global COO, added that some of the most-booked holiday packages are to Nadi in Fiji, Bali and Phuket – longtime favourites for Australian travellers seeking tropical resorts and plenty of sunshine.

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