Bargains galore for holidaymakers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 June, 2009, 12:00am

Individual holidaymakers seeking a bargain break are likely to benefit as travel agencies offer more deals to fend off the effects of the financial crisis.

Travellers are expected to have a wider choice thanks to airlines vying for passengers and hotels wanting to maintain room occupancy levels, according to a leading Hong Kong travel agency.

Iras Ko, managing director of Travel Expert, which has 40 branches across Hong Kong, said this meant more people were now able to decide on packages that suited their individual needs.

'The number of individual travellers has risen during the financial tsunami as package prices drop. Normally, we receive inquiries in May every year about trips in summer, but the outbreak of swine flu initially led them to hold back their plans.'

She said more walk-in inquiries were now being made by customers seeking bargains because they felt assured that swine flu was not as bad as they had initially feared.

She said individual travel packages had become a trend and were gaining in popularity with the availability of so many guidebooks, allowing people to set their own travel routes and booking the necessary hotels and transport through agents.

'You don't have to wake up early to go to destinations with a huge bunch of travel buddies ... With individual travel, everything is tailor made for you,' Ms Ko said.

Short-haul trips around Southeast Asia and long-hauls to Europe, Australia and the United States seem the most popular destinations for these individual travellers.

She said Southeast Asia travellers wanted to enjoy beaches and spas, while shopping and sightseeing were the main reasons for visiting Europe, Australia and the US. 'They can choose to buy these packages in addition to hotel and air ticket to suit their needs,' Ms Ko said.

She said a trip via Manila to nearby Pampanga, where travellers can enjoy sky-skiing in a microlight aircraft and dine in the countryside, is made possible from just HK$930. Eco-tours, such as visits to local villages, rice terraces and the Lumiang Burial Cave in Sagada or a boat trip to Taal Volcano Island, are also offered.

According to Ms Ko, the number of individual tourists to China has tripled in the past two years. She said she believed this was because the amenities in big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, had reached international standards.

While the number of individual travellers to Europe, Australia and the US continues to increase, Ms Ko said she felt there was still room for expansion in Southeast Asia.

She said practically everywhere in the world had something worth seeing.

'My dream is to visit every corner in the world flexibly, and this cannot be achieved with travel groups,' Ms Ko said.