New Zealand a hot year-end holiday venue
THE year-end school holidays are around the corner and among the top destinations on travellers' lists is a country known for its spectacular scenery, as well as food and wine.
New Zealand has emerged as a hot holiday destination among Singaporeans for the year-end period, said travel agencies Dynasty Travel and CTC Travel.
A record 47,520 travelled there between September last year and August this year - 43 per cent more compared with the same period between 2010 and 2011.
The number of visitors from Singapore has been increasing since 2011, according to new figures from the Tourism New Zealand agency.
Steven Dixon, its regional manager for South and South-east Asia, attributed the surge to greater accessibility, thanks to a Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand alliance launched in January that increased capacity by 30 per cent.
A long-running marketing campaign and the popularity of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings film series - some of which were filmed on New Zealand's North Island - also helped to raise the country's profile among travellers.
A survey conducted last year found that one in five tourists visited because of the movies.
Singaporean holidaymakers stay an average of two weeks, one in two are repeat visitors and most tend to self-drive and explore the regions outside the main hubs of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
For example, some drive out of Christchurch to explore the east coast of the South Island to whale-watch, swim with dolphins, skydive and horseback-ride.
Travel agencies say the other popular destinations this year include Spain, Italy and Finland; Hokkaido and Okinawa in Japan; Gold Coast and Tasmania, Australia; and Beijing, China.
Evon Ler, president of Insight Vacations (Asia) said: "Central Europe - especially Vienna, Budapest and Prague, and Spain as well - is becoming more popular compared with London and Paris. This could be due to travellers becoming more well-travelled and wanting to explore something out of the norm."
Sales manager Lee Yee Wen, 28, is going to Finland for a 10-day tour with her husband for their honeymoon in December. She hopes to see the Northern Lights, visit the Santa Claus Village and go for husky sled rides.
She said: "We chose Finland because lately, there seems to be a lot of media coverage on it. It also won't be convenient for us to visit once we have kids."
Regional destinations also remained popular this year-end season with do-it-yourself and free-and-easy travellers.
Travel agencies noted that regional cruises were also among the top five choices for year-end travellers.
Travel search engine Skyscanner said that Taipei in Taiwan, Seoul in Korea, Bali in Indonesia, Manila in the Philippines and Hong Kong were the most searched destinations.
Hotel booking platform Hotels.com Singapore said Hong Kong topped the list, followed by Bangkok in Thailand, Tokyo in Japan, Singapore and Taipei.