Flight Centre says its sales to Asia are down 5 per cent following the coronavirus outbreak, with its travel suppliers offering special sale airfares to other parts of the world.

The travel agent said its airfares to China were down 75 per cent, as it had expected following the advent of Covid-19,but the outbreak had had only minimal effect on bookings to the region.

While coronavirus had been a popular topic of conversations with travellers and agents, Sue Matson, the general manager of retail at Flight Centre, said the outbreak had not deterred Kiwis from travelling or booking trips for later in the year, and destinations such as Japan had proven to be "more popular than ever" with travellers.

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This weekend Flight Centre is holding its Auckland Travel Expo at ASB Showgrounds, promising cheap flights to Europe and North America, and competitive package deals to Fiji and Bali, as airlines and hotels move to stimulate the market.

Overall bookings with the agency had not been affected by coronavirus and the company was not concerned about potential long-term impacts, Matson told the Herald.

"When something like this happens, people are looking and thinking in a slightly different way. Surprisingly, we haven't seen a massive change to booking patterns," she said.

"Although those China bookings are down and people are thinking more perhaps about what they're doing, [the risk of coronavirus] is certainly not stopping people from [booking]."

Suppliers and airlines were working with the agent to offer savings on airfares around the world, to stimulate travel, she said: "Everyone is very keen to keep customers travelling."

The cruise market had taken a slight hit following the outbreak, but this was expected to "bounce back" very quickly, Matson said.

"Cruise has been the fastest-growing part of the market in the last couple of years. Without question, customers I have spoken to in the last couple of weekends have watched [developments] in Asia. We have not seen a decrease in cruise sales, but I don't think it is moving as fast forward at the moment."

Sue Matson, general manager of retail at Flight Centre. Photo / Supplied
Sue Matson, general manager of retail at Flight Centre. Photo / Supplied

Other trends Flight Centre had noticed in the market include New Zealanders now travelling more often, more commonly on two international trips per year instead of one as traditionally was the case, as travel had become more affordable.


As well as the growth in the cruise market among all age groups, small-group adventure tours had picked up in popularity with Kiwi travellers in recent years, she said.

Standout fares from the expo this weekend include flights to Australia for $299, and hotel and airfares to Fiji from $899. Other hot deals include return flights to Hawaii from $699 and to Bali $749, with flights to Phuket for $899.

Etihad Airways has return flights to Barcelona on sale for $1199 per person, and Philippine Airlines has return flights to London through Manila for $1299. Intrepid group tour packages have been slashed by 15 per cent.

Flight Centre expects this weekend will be the "busiest weekend to book travel of the year."

Top deals

• Seven nights in Bali including flights for $959 per person
• Return flights and 7 nights accommodation in Bali for $609 per person
• Return flights from Auckland to Barcelona with Etihad Airways for $1199
• Round trips to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Gold Coast for $299 flying Air New Zealand
• Return airfares to Los Angeles or San Francisco flying Qantas for $899
• Return flights Auckland to London flying Philippine Airways for $1299
• Auckland to Phuket flying Qantas for $899 per person