A year ago, travel agents were about to enter a vicious price war to fight the effects of Sars on tourism and business travel. This year, they are back to business as usual - which means holidaymakers will pay extra for Easter trips. Travel agencies expect business next month to be up 30 per cent on the usual Easter trade. One reason is the start of visa-free travel to Japan on April 1 for holders of Hong Kong special administrative region passports. Another is the proximity of the Ching Ming Festival to the Easter weekend this year - they are just three days apart - which has boosted demand for long-haul tours. Susanna Lau Mei-sze, general manager of Hong Thai Travel Services, said demand for Japanese tours had grown by 20 percentage points. 'In the past, our tours were only half full a month before the Easter break. But as of now, over 70 per cent of them are full,' she said. Instead of launching a price war, Ms Lau said some of their prices had increased by 10 per cent. 'We no longer want to use low prices to attract customers. We would rather offer a variety of ... tours to trigger people's desire to travel,' she said. She said there would be customised tours for newlyweds, as this year was recognised in the Chinese calendar as being a good one in which to get married. In the long run, Ms Lau said they would design new long-haul tours, since people were more willing to spend money on travelling. Sunflower Travel general manager Alex Lee Chun-ting said its Easter business would see a sharp increase. As well as fielding inquiries about Japanese tours, the agency was taking many calls about long-haul tours.