Bali is shaping up as a battleground between airlines and agents and travellers are winning with cheap fares and bargain accommodation while Kiwi demand for Rugby World Cup venue Japan continues to soar.

One agent says Japan is increasingly popular as a honeymoon destination.

A travel event this weekend has thrown the focus on holiday deals with Flight Centre advertising seven nights in Bali for $899 per person, including air fares.

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Rival Helloworld had a similar deal out earlier this week for $100 less and says it was ''swamped'' with demand for the limited number of packages.

Emirates and Air New Zealand are fighting intensely on the non stop Auckland-Denpasar route and being forced to drop fares.

Victoria Courtney, Flight Centre NZ general manager product, said Bali had started slowly as a destination for Kiwis but they had discovered the holiday spot in big numbers now.

Competition between Air New Zealand and Hawaiian Airlines to Honolulu has also resulted in a price skirmish. In the lead-up to Flight Centre's weekend expo in Auckland Air NZ fares dropped to $579, $100 below Hawaiian Airlines.

Flight Centre this weekend also fares to Tokyo (via Nadi on Fiji Airways) for $645 return, outside the World Cup period.

Travel by New Zealanders to Japan has risen from 38,000 a year to 50,000 since 2017, according to Stats NZ, and the agent says this is reflected in its bookings, up 30 per cent for the past five years.

Flight Centre NZ says its bookings to Japan had been increasing by 30 per cent year on year for the past five years.

Cherry blossom season is a draw for tourists to Japan. Photo / 123Rf
Cherry blossom season is a draw for tourists to Japan. Photo / 123Rf

The World Cup was helping.


Demand for Japan travel has shot up with the hype around the games and the upcoming Olympics, leading to more routes and affordable airfares for Kiwis, '' said Sue Matson general manager retail at Flight Centre.

"With the romance of cherry blossom, deer and idyllic scenery, it's become a new favourite for honeymooning also."

Helloworld executive general manager Simon Mckearney said Japan is going to be an ''absolute ripper'' over the next six weeks.

''If feels like all we have been ticketing in the last two weeks is Japan.''

Other deals through Flight Centre this weekend include London - typically one of the most expensive destinations in Europe - for $1299 in economy from Auckland flying Air China and Amsterdam for $1173 on China Southern. Best business class fares are to Amsterdam on China Southern for $4955.

Earlier this week, House of Travel had $1299 fares to Athens aboard Singapore Airlines.

Bargain flights to Amsterdam are on sale this weekend. Photo / Grant Bradley
Bargain flights to Amsterdam are on sale this weekend. Photo / Grant Bradley

While latest Westpac MacDermott Miller figures show shaky consumer confidence this isn't reflected in the continued strong demand for overseas travel.

A record 3.16 million Kiwis travelled abroad in the last year and recent growth of around 5 per cent a year shows no sign of slowing as long as airline competition remains intense.

The New Zealand dollar has dipped to four-year lows against the United States making on the ground costs more expensive but the Kiwi is holding up against other currencies.

Courtney said her firm had been expecting a slowdown, but there was no sign of it.

Helloworld executive general manager Simon Mckearney said one surprise has been the very strong interest and sales to Europe since the fares have been out in the extended ''Early Bird'' sales season.

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''Customers getting in early and in premium seats was not something we expected given the supposed softening of the economic situation in NZ. Lots of people looking to head north for cruises in the (next) European summer.''

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas said the recent spike in oil prices following the attack on a Saudi oil refinery was a reminder that fares could rise and if that forced airlines to cut back on flying competition could ease.

Fuel makes up at least 25 per cent of airline operating costs and prices long haul flying from New Zealand, in particular, were vulnerable to oil price movements.