Money no object as travellers spread wings
Many travel-hungry Hongkongers want to flee as far as possible from the city during the Lunar New Year holiday, with cost no problem.
Employees who have Saturdays and Sundays off can enjoy a nine-day break - from January 21 to 29 - by applying for two days' annual leave on top of the three-day public holiday.
Long-haul tours are in high demand, as holidaymakers plan their breaks, with some expensive trips already fully booked, travel agencies say.
A HK$97,999 tour covering four countries in South America, a HK$35,599 North European icebreaker tour and nine-day tours to Ethiopia and Israel are all full, Hong Thai Travel says.
Long-haul tours to the Mediterranean and Europe are 90 per cent booked even though they cost 10 per cent more than last year, Wing On Travel says.
Tours during the holiday would cost 5 to 15 per cent more than last year, Hong Thai director Jason Wong Chun-tat said.
'However, bargains are still available for some Southeast Asian tours because charter flights will be employed,' he said. 'A four-day tour to Taipei costs HK$3,699, about 10 per cent cheaper than last year. A five-day tour to Vietnam costs HK$5,299, 20 per cent cheaper than last Lunar New Year.'
Wing On's assistant general manager, Simon Ma Sai-man, said many frequent travellers to Japan had changed to other destinations after the nuclear scare there in March last year. The number of tour members going to Dubai had risen by 30 per cent, while Turkey and the Mediterranean region were seeing a double-digit increase.
'People started booking as early as the beginning of October,' Ma said. 'We have had quite a cold winter this year, and people are passionate about going to warmer places in the Middle East and Mediterranean.'
For individual travellers, hotel and flight packages to Seoul are still available - with prices as much as 18 per cent higher than a year ago. Packages to Singapore were also more expensive, from between 8 and 24 per cent higher, the two agencies said.
The Travel Industry Council earlier announced that tours to South Korea would cost from HK$4,389 to HK$20,199 at the Lunar New Year - up from last year's price range of HK$3,299 to HK$10,599. Holiday demand from mainlanders for hotels was also pushing up prices, the council said.
Businessman Gabriel Lee Chi-wan and his family will take a seven-day tour to Australia, costing a total of HK$100,000.
'It is the only time my kids can take an overseas trip. It is worth spending the money,' the father of two said. The package includes six nights in five-star hotels in three cities.