Warrnambool travel agents say overseas bookings are surging and the pent-up demand has given one business the opportunity for a tree-change as the industry takes flight again.
Helloworld owners Nic and Jacinta Bolden have shut the doors on their Fairy Street location after 25 years, with staff shortages and high demand prompting a move to Tower Hill.
Mr Bolden said new clients would be accepted by referral, but the switch would help him meet the needs of his customers amid a two-month surge.
"Our office from February through to May has been extremely busy but we only have myself and another staff member whereas we used to have five," he said.
"We're not doing the same numbers as when we had five staff but we're certainly flat out because it's more time consuming selling travel than it used to be but there's certainly increasing bookings too.
"Myself and my wife have purchased Harmony at Tower Hill which is an accommodation business. We're quite busy with that and we've struggled to run both businesses at once so we've re-located the office out to Tower Hill.
"We're currently in a setup phase and we've been at Fairy Street for 25 years. I've moved the office, but the phone number and email are the same."
He said the change would allow him more flexibility.
"We are changing the way we're doing business in that we're only taking phone and email enquiries, on-site has to be by appointment," he said.
"With the Fairy Street location, people can just walk in off the street and with how the industry is at the moment we could be on hold with an airline for anywhere from one to four hours.
"We could be on hold with an urgent matter and someone could walk in off the street and it's very hard to manage both.
"It allows me to control the structure of my day and we've got 25 years of amazing clients we want to look after."
He said the way people were travelling was changing.
"There was a bit of a trend at the start of this year where people were desperate to see their family and friends," he said.
"Now we're seeing an increase in people also wanting to have overseas holidays whether in Fiji, Bali, Europe or Canada. Now even the cruise lines are starting to get a bit of interest again.
"Clients are probably wanting more short trips than staying away a longer time - It's to do with COVID-19. A lot of people are still nervous but there's so much pent-up demand that if a quarter of people who want to travel do, that's a lot. "
National Warrnambool Travel manager Virginia Paton said bookings were on the rise, but it would take about six months to reach pre-pandemic levels again.
"It's definitely picking up, people's confidence is definitely coming back," she said.
"The issue is - particularly with flights to Europe - there's less flights into Australia now, so the demand is quite high so you really need to book early to get a good price.
"I think the fact there's probably so much COVID around here now and a lot of people have had it, they realise they can travel because they've had it and have some sort of immunity.
"The other major consideration is the amount of restrictions that have been lifted. You can go to quite a few countries now and not even have a PCR test.
"That certainly made life much easier."
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