Dollar turning away Kiwi visitors
THE classic Kiwi holiday to the Gold Coast is feeling the squeeze, as the strong Australian dollar pushes coffee past NZ$5 and theme park admissions beyond Los Angeles equivalents.
The Australian dollar cost $1.36 yesterday, a rise of eight per cent in a year - against $1.26 for the US dollar. Australia's share among destinations for Kiwi travellers has also fallen.
Travel agents said Australia was still the favourite destination for New Zealanders "by a country mile" and was likely to remain that way, and Tourism Australia said visitors still arrived but their budgets have been shrinking.
Statistics New Zealand figures show Australia accounts for just less than half of short-term travel destinations for New Zealanders. Its share grew slightly in the year to March 2010, to 49 per cent, before heading in a downward trajectory to March this year.
Flight Centre general manager retail Maree Hansen said the growing cost of travelling in Australia made families plan their trips more carefully.
"Most people travelling to Sydney or Melbourne are inquiring more about being able to look at options of one-bedroom apartments to make meals for their children [rather] than spend huge amounts at cafes and things," Ms Hansen said.
Many families were also looking at cruises - where all expenses were predictable - and trips to Hawaii.
Meanwhile, a major family advice website found that during the last school holidays, New Zealand families increasingly looked at local activities rather than travel.
Kidspot New Zealand usually gets a 69 per cent jump in traffic to its travel section during the month before school holidays, but this autumn it only went up 27 per cent.
Instead, the family fun entertainment section, which promotes New Zealand activities, surged by 74 per cent - much greater than usual.
But House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said Australia was unlikely to ever lose its perch atop the list of favourite Kiwi holiday destinations.
"There has certainly been a significant shift in terms of currency over the past two years ... but [Australia is] definitely still the number one destination by a country mile and we expect it will continue to be the same," Mr Thomas said.
Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said New Zealanders kept coming in record numbers despite the surging dollar.
"If there's any impact it's probably that the Kiwis' budgets don't buy them as much - there's a little bit less [spending] on the ground," Mr McEvoy said.
The Herald compared prices of activities, accommodation, flights and meals in the Gold Coast, Los Angeles, Fiji and Queenstown, and found flights were significantly cheaper to Queenstown and the Gold Coast than the others, and the Los Angeles Zoo was a quarter the price of the Australia Zoo.
But most striking was that a $3.90 cup of coffee on the Gold Coast translated to $5.30 here.
Travel ads in the Herald this month offered a seven-night package to the Gold Coast starting at $800, including airfares. In May last year, seven nights in the Gold Coast including flights started at $650.