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Finder Travel Report 2022

57% of Australians say the pandemic has changed how they want to travel.

From road trips to European escapes, Australians love to travel. With international borders once again open, Aussies are free to get back to their beachside getaways and backpacking endeavours.

But how are Australians feeling about travel? We surveyed over 1,000 Australians to find out what Aussies want from travel, how they're paying for it and how the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped their holidaying habits.

Finder's Recovery Index – an index that tracks COVID-19 recovery in Australia across travel, transport, leisure and the economy – shows travel reached 35% normalcy in December 2021 compared to pre-pandemic times.

How do Australians feel about travel?

Australians are still not feeling comfortable about overseas travel. According to Finder's COVID Comfort Indicator, Aussies rank their level of comfort with overseas travel at just 3.4 out of 10 on average. They feel slightly more at ease with domestic travel, ranking it at 5.4 out of 10. The pandemic, constantly changing borders and fear of trip cancellations has left Aussies wary about booking a getaway.

In November, a Finder survey revealed just 38% of Australians felt comfortable travelling overseas when the borders opened. Gen Z (54%) and millennials (48%) are the most likely to feel at ease with going overseas, compared to just 19% of baby boomers. Men (48%) are also substantially more comfortable with international travel than women (28%).

Even once they do start to book holidays again, the pandemic has fundamentally changed how Australians want to travel. Nearly a third of Australians (29%) don't feel comfortable travelling on an aeroplane or transiting through airports, according to a Finder survey. 1 in 5 (19%) admit they only want to travel within Australia, while 18% aim to travel during off-peak periods to avoid the crowds. Overall, an overwhelming 57% want to travel differently to how they did pre-COVID.

Interestingly, women (60%) are more likely than men (54%) to say their travel needs have changed. In particular, they are more likely to want to avoid aeroplanes and airports (32% compared to 26%), and to not travel outside of Australia (22% compared to 15%). On the other hand, men (6%) are more likely than women (3%) to say they'll now buy business or first class tickets for the extra personal space – perhaps they just needed an excuse.

Where do Australians want to travel?

New Zealand is the most popular country for prospective Australian travellers. A Finder survey found 35% would choose New Zealand as their first destination when they travel again. Europe (21%) is another common choice, with the UK and Italy ranking as the top destinations there. Australians are also looking forward to heading to Southeast Asia (11%), the Pacific Islands (9%) East Asia (9%) and North America (8%).

The research shows Australians have a strong urge to travel to Europe, particularly given only 1 European nation (the UK) featured in Australians' top travel destinations prior to the pandemic. As of 2018–19, New Zealand, Indonesia and Thailand ranked as the most popular tourist hotspots. In fact, 7 of the top 10 pre-COVID travel destinations were located in Asia.

What do Australians want in a destination?

When it comes to travel destination must-haves, a good hotel (37%) and affordable prices (35%) top the list. Beautiful scenery (31%) and good food and drinks (31%) are also important to Aussies travellers. However, among gen Z travellers, gastronomy takes the top spot, with 46% ranking good food and drinks as essential. Millennials are most likely to prioritise a family friendly location (36%), while baby boomers seek affordability over all else (45%). Arts and culture (13%), an English-speaking location (8%) and Instagrammable content (1%) are other qualities Aussies search for.

How do Australians plan to pay for their trips?

The travel industry suffered an incredible blow by the pandemic. In the year ending September 2021, the number of overnight domestic trips was down 29% and domestic spend was down 23%. COVID-19 outbreaks, interstate travel restrictions and fear of cancellation made it difficult for Australians to plan a holiday.

As of September 2021, the average domestic traveller spent $737 overall per overnight trip, with an average spend of $188 per night. Visitors to the Northern Territory spent the most – an average of $1,397 per trip, followed by Tasmania ($979) and Queensland ($816). Those venturing around Victoria spend the least amount of money, at $546 per trip.

Thanks to the reopening of Australia's international borders, Australians are beginning to book overseas holidays again. As they do so, they face expenses they haven't faced in years. When asked how they will fund flights on their next overseas holiday, the majority of Australians (59%) say they will use their savings, while 20% will use a credit card. Some (18%) plan to use their banked-up reward points, and others (6%) will even rely on buy now pay later services like Afterpay to fund their travel endeavours.

Travel tip: Pay for your flights using a frequent flyer credit card – you'll earn points for making a purchase, plus the extra points you receive for flying.

Are Australians taking out travel insurance?

Australians are more cautious about booking a holiday following the pandemic and countless cancelled travel plans. Nevertheless, just 14% of Australians planning domestic travel will take out a travel insurance policy, according to a Finder survey. A further 24% say they aren't sure.

However, Australians are more prudent when it comes to overseas trips. 3 in 5 (60%) of those planning international travel say they would take out an insurance policy. This includes 10% who are already insured through their credit card.

Newly emerging COVID-19 variants and changing government rules have meant travel insurance policies are in constant flux. As a result, many Australians aren't aware what their insurance policy covers. A survey found:

  • Less than two-thirds of respondents (64%) knew they could get insurance that covers COVID-19 medical expenses overseas.
  • Only 40% knew a policy could cover trip rearrangement costs if they fell ill from COVID-19.
  • Half (50%) of survey respondents mistakenly believed they would be covered in the event of a border closure.

Travel tip: Never assume what is or isn't included in your policy. If you're insured through your credit card, it might not cover COVID-19 expenses. Read the product disclosure statement or call your insurer to clarify what is covered.

The truth is there are several policies that cover COVID-19 expenses. Medical and trip rearrangement costs are typically included, plus any expenses in case you're unexpectedly forced into quarantine on your trip. Some policies will even cover rearrangement costs if your accommodation is suddenly closed due to COVID or you're denied boarding due to COVID symptoms. Just make sure you read the product disclosure statement in advance to avoid any nasty surprises.

Travel tips from an expert

James Martin, senior insurance writer

"Many Australians are still reluctant to travel because of COVID-19, which is fair enough given the constantly changing nature of this pandemic and its impact on travel restrictions. However, luckily many insurance policies cover COVID-19 expenses so you can enjoy some peace of mind when you travel.

"Typically, a COVID policy will cover medical expenses if you catch COVID-19. In many cases this cover is unlimited, but always read the fine print to make sure. Some policies will also cover trip cancellation costs, including flights and accommodation. Any hotel quarantine costs might also be covered, but only if they were unanticipated.

"Some insurers won't let you access COVID cover within 3 weeks of your trip, which is why it's so important to buy your insurance policy as soon as you book your holiday – not at the last minute.

"Concerningly, 40% of those planning international trips may not take out travel insurance. Remember there are a range of reasons other than COVID you might need travel insurance – like lost luggage, stolen property or getting into an accident. In the US, for instance, a hospital bed will set you back around $750 a night, while an insurance policy costs around $100.

"Always compare travel insurance policies before settling on one, and be sure to read the product disclosure statement (PDS) so you know exactly what's covered and what's not."

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