It’s been a rough year. The global travel industry has been left dangling over a precipice, Australia’s local travel industry has been smashed (even if it is now slowly recovering) and to add insult to injury, the whole of Sydney now looks set to emigrate to Byron.
But what will summer look like with no international tourists? Though some international arrivals have been allowed in (after quarantining) for business or essential purposes (see: World Famous Strongman Struggles To Keep Fit In Australian Hotel Quarantine), on the whole, this is due to be an unprecedented summer of domestic travel, driven by domestic tourists.
Before we embark on a December Of Debauchery, though, there are some warning signs and pandemic lessons we ought to learn from Europe’s summer just gone (see below).
For those simply wondering what Australian summer will look like this year, however, here’s a rough picture.
The beach, the beach and the beach.
In other words: the return of the road trip.
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This comes as 9 Now reports, “The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing airlines to the brink of extinction and turning airports into very expensive plane parks” and as both Australia’s major carriers make significant cutbacks.
That doesn’t mean we won’t be moving though – just that we’ll be driving (mostly) to get to our destinations. As the ABC reports, “Australian holiday hotspots are booking out as travel is allowed again.”
Speaking on Traveller’s Flight Of Fancy podcast, travel writer Sheriden Rhodes told host Ben Groundwater and travel writer Michael Gebicki, “It’s maybe not going to look how it usually looks, but everyone’s more keen than ever to get out there [this year] and enjoy summer.”
Travel writer Michael Gebicki said he anticipated this summer will be one of surf and national parks, encouraging Australians wanting to get away over Christmas “to start planning now.”
Why? Pent up demand is seeing all the best Airbnb’s booking out fast, making organising a self-sufficient trip “quite difficult in a lot of places.”
“There’s a lot of appeal in the self catering holiday where you can control your environment rather than a hotel or resort which carries a little more inherent risk,” Gebicki said during the podcast.
Host Groundwater, as well as travel writer Sheridon Rhodes, also urged Australians to get booking pronto.
“Get going now or you might just miss out.”
Sheridon said you should “book well ahead for restaurants and experiences of any kind.”
“The further ahead planning you do the better experience you are going to have.”
It’s also important to remember that you don’t know if where you are right now (or where you end up going on holiday) will turn out to be a hotspot.
This means it’s a smart idea to book in your own state and talk to your providers about their options for flexibility.
As Rhodes said, “some providers are offering more than others.”
“Look for operators offering flexibility, cancellations, free change of date, and talk to them. Some are very generous, others are not.”
“Airbnb is just booked out everywhere. It’s almost impossible to get anything outside of the city that’s decent.”
If this happens to you Rhodes suggests you “go outside Airbnb,” and look at “Stayz or Home Aways or go directly to your destination’s tourism website where there are often a lot of the accommodations not listed on Airbnb.”
Worst comes to worst look just outside the city or town of your chosen destination.
Speaking about trends we are going to see more broadly, Groundwater said this summer is going to be a great time to appreciate what we have within a 2 or 3 hour radius of our own homes.
“I think road trips are going to be popular – and with really good reason.”
“Now is a really good time to take a break from flying and get back to those traditional summer holidays in some ways – this is what everyone was doing in the 70s and the 80s. That’s certainly how I spent my childhood holidays, driving around in a car and visiting national parks and little towns and in some ways I’m really excited to get back into that.”
Think: Boomerang Beach, Blueys, Byron.
The only difference? “The station wagon has turned into an SUV.”
In terms of destinations, the travel experts agreed the focus will be on the coast.
“People are going to flee the cities. It’s happening already but peak time is going to be crazy,” Rhodes said.
“Byron Bay I couldn’t even imagine actually… I think it’s going to be quite crazy – a mini Sydney up there.”
Looking at places that might get a little less traffic, the trio discussed ‘not spots’ Tamworth, Dubbo, and Orange, predicting perhaps this summer as the coast gets saturated we will start to see some seepage into the interior.
“Usually everyone wants to go to the coast over Christmas, but I think those country areas will be quite popular over the summer holidays as [some] people can’t get into the coast.”
Not to mention some of these country areas are seeing a boom in their own right. Take Bowral for instance, a town whose latest attraction proves why Power Couples were bailing on Sydney before the pandemic even hit.
It’s not just Bowral seeing a renaissance – the NSW South Coast has been gentrifying of late, with Gebicki pointing out the region has all the “lifestyle factors urbanites are looking for”, and reminding prospective visitors the seafood in places like Ulladulla is that good it gets freighted straight from there to Japan.
“You’ll never look at another oyster again.”
You’re also, with a little persistence, “Guaranteed to get a decent cappuccino in the morning.”
Tasmania is another option, but again – one more so set to be visited by those that already live there or near. If you can get there though Rhodes says it’s magical, reminding listeners to make sure to visit outside the Sydney to Hobart dates if you don’t want to go while it’s crowded.
Other options for those nervous to try their luck in the Big Ticket Towns but who still want a beach getaway are the “tweed coast or hinterland instead of Byron.”
Port Stephens is going to be “jam-packed” Rhodes predicted, as is Coffs Harbour.
A potential alternative to those two? Try Yamba, which is “a little less known and slightly harder to reach.”
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If you get in early enough you could also try the Whitsundays.
For those looking for a taste of the tropics, assuming you are allowed into Queensland (as DMARGE has previously reported, a matter of some controversy), you’ve got the intense heat of Port Douglas and Cairns which have – despite a stinger warning and limitations during summer months – beautiful rivers and swimming holes.
“Finger crossed we can get there.”
There are also indigenous experiences you can book, like hunting for Mud Crabs, Groundwater related.
As for Victoria, former Melbourne resident Groundwater said he believes all the towns along the Great Ocean Road will be packed too, but that “if you look inland and north into the high country and alpine areas, Beechworth, Bright; King Valley, these kinds of places may be a great way to avoid the crowds and enjoy the weather as well.”
Canberra was also touted as an “up and coming” foodie destination with a cool wine scene and great hotels.
It’s not where we’d be keen to head anytime soon, but hey: to each their own.
Another city discussed was Brisbane. Rhodes said, over that peak summer period, Brisbane usually has some really bargain rates at hotels.
Her recommendation? Find one with an outdoor pool, that’s “onto the cleaning” and “Covid safe.”
“Brisbane in summer is amazing and usually empty – there are holiday houses for a good price and a lot happening in the city at that time.”
Kangaroo Valley was also touted as a good place to get a holiday house with friends.
Finally, the topic of national parks was discussed, with Gebicki pointing out “a lot of national parks allow wilderness camping if you want to get away from it all.”
“Even Kosciuszko – you can go out and pitch your tent and have a night in the wilderness and waking up in the morning to this beautiful landscape – something we don’t appreciate enough in Australia but it’s world-class.”
“Alpine wildflowers… High Country in the summer is beautiful.”
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On the topic of insurance, Gebicki left some useful thoughts in a Traveller article earlier this year: “You might consider it if you’re travelling by aircraft or another form of public transport. If it’s a road trip in your own vehicle rather than a hired car, the benefits are questionable.”
“If your travel plans were affected by the pandemic, for example if you were to find yourself locked out of your home state or forced into quarantine, travel insurance would be unlikely to cover any expenses you might incur.”
Your summer of fun awaits.