Travel deals open up the airways to travellers

By Carmen Hall

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PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

Bay jetsetters are benefiting from cut-price travel deals as competition between airlines heats up and more direct connections to international destinations open.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said most of the major global airlines were now able to operate services to New Zealand without restriction.

New air services agreements had been signed with Israel, Mauritius, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Portugal and India - which bought the current total to 70 with plans to increase that number to 90 by the end of 2017, he said.

"These are likely to lead to future opportunities, with one particular focus recently being states around the Mediterranean."

The agreements would deliver benefits to consumers and New Zealanders and drive tourism which already contributes $10.6 billion to New Zealand's total GDP and directly supports 94,100 fulltime equivalent jobs, he said.

By value, 14 per cent of exports were also transported by air, he said that created more opportunities for provincial exporters. "Additionally, the increased competition ultimately leads to lower airfares."

House of Travel Tauranga owner Shane Kennedy said its traveller numbers through 2016 were up 17 per cent on the same time last year.

The market was "very competitive", influenced by a variety of factors including various airlines trying to protect their market share and low fuel costs, he said.

"The result is that prices come down and travellers can sit back and enjoy the ride. The United Kingdom, Europe and the United States have been the big winners with significant competition on these routes and the Kiwi traveller is enjoying the benefits that flow from more choice."

"In some cases USA special promotional fares have almost halved and the new normal fares have generally stayed down as well."

Meanwhile, some destinations with new direct services to new markets "are definitely appealing but at the end of the day Kiwi travellers are looking for value alongside convenience".

YOU Travel managing director and co-owner Kay Rodgers said its inquiries from travellers had increased by 30 per cent and "point to point travel from New Zealand has basically gone viral".

"There has been a massive explosion because it makes travel easy and simpler. Point to point means that you go from Auckland to the likes of the Philippines, China and Vietnam."

Auckland retirees who had cashed up and shifted to the Bay of Plenty with surplus funds had influenced its data, while Vietnam was the standout destination, she said.

"It is the hotspot at the moment, there is no doubt about it. I think that is because Kiwis have an affinity with Vietnam. It has a great climate throughout the year, it's easy to get around and safe and it's actually got something for everybody."

She noted over the last 10 to 15 years incomes had gone up but some fares had stayed the same with flights to Europe about $2000 so in "today's world you know it's actually not a bad price".

Vietnam fascinating for traveller

Peter Attwood (pictured) has been to Vietnam 14 times and says when the plane starts its descent into Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) his heart rate starts speeding up and "it doesn't matter how many times I have been there that never diminishes".

"I just love it and as soon as you leave the airport, you are excited."

He has a close affinity with the country which is spectacular, however, it's the people who have claimed a place in his heart.

By his own admission Mr Attwood is "quite gregarious and I have met a few friends there". "The Vietnamese are just wonderful people, the food is delectable and the climate is great."

The country also had amazing scenery and the many remnants of the war were fascinating to see. The Hai Van Pass was also a standout.

"It's juxtaposed between the incredible greenery of the jungle and the amazing blue of the sea. Every year I hire a motorbike and do a trip over the mountain pass."

Although he preferred to stay in hotels off the beaten track, the locals had embraced the growth in tourism, he said.

"The Vietnamese are particularly savvy entrepreneurs and whilst they trade under a mantle of communism they certainly know how to procure a buck. Therefore they are incredibly honed to the concept of tourism."

Kiwi travellers could now fly direct to Vietnam and Mr Attwood said he would explore that option in the future rather than flying through other Asian ports. Carmen Hall

- Bay of Plenty Times

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