You can pop a pair of jeans, a designer watch or a new set of skis on lay-by. So why not an entire holiday? Ben Connor looks at a form of progressive payment that’s gaining purchase in these leaner times . . .

It’s difficult to imagine a worse way to fund an entire holiday than by credit card. Returning home, the relaxing effects of your trip quickly dissipate as the tunnel vision of paying everything off drags on, with little or no light to break up the darkness. Why not reverse this arrangement? Snag the cheap deals by booking your holiday months in advance, then pay it off in bearable installments before you go.

Since the recent economic downturn, many Australians have been tightening their belts and reconsidering holiday plans. Geoff Wight, Managing Director of Australia New Zealand Travel, isn’t alone in noticing a huge recent increase in domestic travel. “We’ve had people cancel holidays in India,” he says, “only to rebook into Port Douglas and Hamilton Island, places like that.”

An operator with a more narrow focus is Greg Darling from Impact Resort Marketing. He’s also noticed the change, having recently experienced one of his best sales weeks in years. These companies have more in common than benefiting from the upturn in local travel, however. Both are offering attractive, money-saving proposals to help manage finances and save on the costs of a holiday.

How it works

Australia New Zealand Travel is a prime example of a wholesale travel company offering lay-by holidays. Customers determine exactly what they want their trip to consist of, then contact the company with any enquiries or help they might need. “We then calculate the exact amount and get it all booked for them,” says Wight. Periodic payment arrangements are flexible and made in a manner preferred by the customer.

Impact Resort Marketing works a little differently. The company has a special arrangement with a variety of holiday properties, ranging from Merimbula on the NSW South Coast all the way up to the Sunshine Coast. Customers explore the available reduced-price properties at Impact Resource Marketing, then pay $77 to purchase vouchers for the property of their choice. The voucher holds the price of the property for 12 months, during which time the customer can contact the company to book their stay anytime outside of peak periods.

Half the amount is paid on booking, the rest on arrival, minus the $77. The company has also made arrangements with local cafes, restaurants and tour operators, so anything from a free bottle of bubbly with a meal to cut-price camel rides or a discounted cruise on a Chinese Junk are offered.


Why it works

Wight reckons the benefits of lay-bying holidays are self-evident. “It’s obviously easier to do this than pay off your credit card with 18 to 19 percent interest,” he says. “What you save on interest alone you could spend on better restaurants while you’re away.”

We spoke to Narelle Dowling of Albion Park, who found the framework of Impact Resort Marketing’s voucher system useful. “We weren’t paying one big lump sum. Half was paid for first up, the rest later.” Jeannette Vollmer of Woodville said that booking her stay at Ocean Side Resort in Hawks Nest through Impact made everything cheaper. “I had a free breakfast at the golf course, free DVD hire and a discount on dinner at the hotel of around 15 percent.”

Even larger firms like Intrepid Travel are beginning to see the benefit of such schemes. “Travel is a tonic for these tough times,” says Meg Koffel from Intrepid’s Melbourne HQ. “And we’re looking at a number of ideas to ensure people can continue to get away on holiday – like our recently announced 15 percent discount for people who’ve been made redundant and want to take a career break. We’ll continue to look at new ideas, including lay-bying.” Stay tuned.


Lay-buyer beware

As with all deals that look too good to be true, it pays to be cautious. There have been cases in the past in which people have paid for holidays on lay-by, only to find that the supposed lay-by company never existed. Such organisations often offer the world and fail to deliver. If you see what looks like a good deal, be sure to check the company’s website for testimonials, terms and conditions and hidden costs.

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