South-east Asian groups languish for Australia

THE TRADITIONAL group market from South-east Asia into Australia is being assaulted on all fronts, thanks to a number of reasons such as the entry of low-cost carriers and the strong Australian dollar.

The launch of new routes by airlines such as AirAsia X and Scoot is changing the face of the market from “a fairly group market to a fairly big FIT market”, said Gary Peterson, company director of the AOT Group, which owns inbound tour operator ETA.

He said: “We’re seeing more Malaysian (travel consultants) working with us for FITs, (but) you have to do a lot more FITs to do the same numbers. We will potentially see that now with Singaporeans having access to very low airfares into Gold Coast and Sydney.”

GTA Australasia noted a similar trend of decline in its group market.

Said inbound operations manager, Roxy Chan: “Last year, we had 59 groups from Indonesia in August (the peak travel season). This year, it will be somewhere between 40 and 50 groups.”

GTA Indonesia general manager, group sales, Tim Dyer, explained that this could be attributed to factors such as the appreciation of the Australian dollar and the ease of obtaining a European visa compared to before.

“Everyone can go to Europe so they are going to Europe. We’ve seen a huge surge in groups to Europe,” he added.

Both GTA and ETA, however, report fairly strong FIT numbers.

Wego chief commercial officer, Craig Hewett, told TTG Asia e-Daily that according to findings in a recent poll his travel meta-search firm commissioned, traditional group travel to Australia was in decline among Singaporean, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino customers.

Some 47 per cent of the close to 700 respondents said ‘I like to make my own plans, booking my flights and hotels independently’ compared to 20 per cent who ‘prefer a packaged holiday, buying the hotel and flights as part of the package’ and 14 per cent who ‘like to travel as part of an organised group’.

He said: “This matches the behaviour that we’ve seen on Wego. Searches for packages are at an all-time low. In the last 24 months, it has dropped to four per cent of all our searches compared to flights and hotels. In the past, it was close to 10 per cent.”

– Read more in TTG Asia June 29 – July 5, 2012

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