Travel Trends: The Rise of Shorter Holidays

Short breaks Hawaii
  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • June 26, 2015 at 2:28 PM

Imagine being able to go on holidays not just once a year, but three, four or even five times. This dream is becoming a reality for many people as they embrace the idea of taking shorter holidays, more frequently.

Whether it’s from a desire to experience more, a fear of missing out (FOMO) or a way to save money, shorter holidays are a hot trend for Australians in 2015.

According to recent data from Roy Morgan, nearly one million Australians are going on at least five holidays of three or more nights in an average year, while research from Tourism Research Australia also shows that average trip lengths have been declining since 2009, particularly for domestic holidays.

In an interview with WA Today, the chief executive of the Tourism & Transport Forum, Margy Osmond says the latest research shows that “instead of taking a week off, or two weeks off, so many people are taking a long weekend.”

One of the early ways this trend has manifested is through “staycations” – a term that rose out of the idea of staying at home for your vacation, but could also mean any domestic holiday. Hotels and tourism companies have embraced the term, enticing people to “be a tourist in your hometown” or to explore more areas “just next door”.

It wasn’t long before the idea of a staycation – and all the convenience it offered – was adapted to suit short-term stays in places all around Australia. An increase in domestic airline competition has also helped make it easier for people to justify a two, three or four day getaway to popular Aussie cities and towns.

But it’s not just local places that are seeing more short-stay travellers, with international destinations getting their fair share of Aussie’s staying for three nights to a week before heading back home.

In fact, Hawaiian Airlines has decided to capitalise on the shorter stay trend by launching Short Breaks Hawaii, a new website inviting Australians to “hop on over to Hawaii for a quick break” through one of its six packages catering for different lifestyles and experiences. The packages start from around $550 per person excluding airfares, and around $1400 with airfares.

Hawaiian Airlines’ regional director for Australia and New Zealand, Gai Tyrell, has told Fairfax Media that there number of Australians taking shorter holidays in Hawaii is “definitely growing”.

“Now because of change in the way and how often we holiday, plus air access to and throughout the Hawaiian Islands, we are seeing special occasion short trips, anniversaries, short honeymoons, special interest outdoor travel, even dedicated shopping trips to Honolulu,” she says.

“We could be seeing a return to the heady days of the 80s and 90s when Hawaii was a massively popular short break destination for Australians as airlines flew to the US via Honolulu.”

Why short holidays are so popular

The launch of Short Breaks Hawaii marks a change not just in the way we holiday, but also in what kind of travel packages are available. Airlines and travel agents have picked up on the short holiday trend and run with it, offering a wider range of travel packages of four or less nights.

In Australia, domestic airlines including Qantas, Virgin Australia, and Tiger are also catering to short-haul trips, offering all-inclusive packages as well as low fare sales that often promote regional destinations. Similarly, cruise companies like P&O are doing a roaring trade in shorter cruises to nearby islands or coastal destinations, and interest in services like Virgin Australia’s Mystery Breaks – which offers surprise getaways of one to four nights – is also on the rise.

Running along the same lines as Mystery Breaks are the growing number of experience and adventure-based travel options. From mountain biking trips to hikes through the wilderness and survival camps like the Bear Grylls Academy, these adventure holidays are usually packaged up as short and sharp, extreme getaway options that prove popular with people looking for something new.

Whether it’s a classic travel package option or one that offers something off the beaten track, the stats suggest more people are taking advantage of these deals than ever before. So why is shorter now proving to be so popular?

Tourism & Transport Forum’s Margy Osmond puts it down to people trying to find that elusive balance between work and play.

“That change has definitely been generated by people’s work environments. The long-term trend is more about quality than quantity,” she says.

Short holidays are a solution to juggling work commitments and relaxation, sidestepping the “holiday hangover” that often comes from spending a couple of weeks away and then struggling to catch up on everything when you return.

The fact is that getting on top of work that’s been waiting a few days is always going to be easier than work that’s been sitting there for a couple of weeks, and shorter holidays are one way to reduce this workplace pressure.

Some people also use short holidays as a way to capitalise on work trips, adding on a few extra nights when they travel for work to save money and still have a mini getaway.

With a bit of planning around public holidays, you can also take a trip without using any annual leave or missing out on important days of work – an issue that has often lead to people skipping annual holidays altogether.

Research from Expedia has shown that, on average, Aussie employees left a quarter or a week of their annual leave days unused in 2013 and 62% of people said they felt holiday-deprived as a result.

Expedia also found that two thirds (67%) of Australian workers admit to checking their work email and/ or voicemail while on holiday. Taking shorter holidays, however, reduces the urgency and need for checking in on work stuff, which can mean a more fulfilling break from the office even if it’s only a few days instead of a couple of weeks.

The cost of short holidays vs. longer holidays

It’s not just work that’s fuelling this trend: shorter holidays can also feel more affordable than longer trips as people usually end up spending less overall.

Expedia says affordability is one of the main reasons Australians didn’t take holidays in 2013, so shorter trips could be a way to compromise on cost and still have a good time.

It’s also easier to plan for short trips without doing up a detailed budget and, according to research from Suncorp Bank, that could be another factor fuelling the popularity of short holidays.

The bank’s 2014 Holiday Habits Report examined the attitudes and trends of holidaying Australian families and found that 31 per cent of Australians admitted they don’t save at all for holidays.

“This may be due to the fact our results show a trend for Australians to take multiple, short term holidays throughout the year in more affordable and accessible destinations, rather than saving their dollars and leave for that one long international trip,” Suncorp Bank Regional Manager Monique Reynolds says.

“The popularity of last minute deals and specials are seeing Australians booking flights and accommodation more spontaneously than in the past, without necessarily considering their budget.”

But while short holidays can seem like a simple way to save money, it isn’t always a solution.

“In fact, one in five Australians are still paying off their holidays up to three months after and some are left paying off expensive holidays for more than a year,” Reynolds says.

“Planning and budgeting ahead of time for a holiday, even a short domestic break, means you won’t be left paying off holidays for months after your tans fade.”

Then again, if a shorter holiday costs less, it’s probably also going to take less time to pay off. In fact, these types of trips could very well change the ways people pay for holidays in the future – and influence the whole travel industry in the process.

Images: A screenshot of the Short Breaks Hawaii website, source: supplied; Tigerair and Qantaslink planes, credit: Bidgee via Wikimedia Commons.

Tiger Qantas
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