Holiday favourite Bali is making a comeback, with the destination emerging as the top destination for online travel searches among Australians, according to new Google data.
Google Australia head of travel Michelle Allen says the findings suggest Bali is back on travellers’ radars, with search interest matching pre-pandemic levels for the first time in two years.
“In April to May of this year, query volume from Australia to Bali was up 20 per cent compared to 2020, and Australia is the top country searching for Bali outside of Indonesia, so it is definitely a country that is very high in demand,” Allen says.
Even more promising for the Indonesian holiday island are indications Australians are not just searching, but booking.
“The interest in Bali happened right as quarantine-free travel in Bali was announced. We saw the flight queries really start to rise on March 3, and accommodation on March 4,” says Allen.
“That very close difference between the two queries in just one day signals really strong intent, because people usually book their flights before their accommodation.
“I think it’s a really positive sign for Bali that consumers are not only interested but also have really strong intent to go.”
Brad Jones is one of thousands of Australians heading to the Island of the Gods during Australia’s cooler season.
The Sydneysider, who has visited the island five times prior to the pandemic, says he hopes to return more than once a year in the future, with trips already booked for this July and next year.
“We have stayed in multiple places in Bali over the years and have never had a bad experience. There is so much to do and so little to do, it’s your choice,” says Jones.
Residents of New South Wales are second only to Western Australians in leading the Bali travel comeback, in terms of query volume for flight searches, Google data shows. This is followed by Victorians.
Melbourne-based Eleni Donnelly just returned from a visit and says the local staff and tour operators she spoke to have been overjoyed by growing number of Australian visitors.
“They’re saying that Bali is not yet back to normal but it is slowly getting there. Many [locals] have asked that we let people know the Balinese people are waiting for Australians to come back,” she says.
The public servant, who had been travelling to Bali at least once per year for a better part of a decade prior to the pandemic, says she and her daughter couldn’t wait to return.
But despite the spike in interest as COVID restrictions relax and Australians seek to escape winter, tourism to the holiday hotspot is still a long way off pre-pandemic levels.
“When we first arrived my first thought was that Bali is pleasantly quiet. Our trip from the airport to Ubud was much quicker than usual with far less traffic on the roads,” Donnelly noted.
Victorians currently have the third-most search query volume for flight searches, Google data shows. Unsurprisingly, Western Australians are leading the charge, follow by residents of New South Wales.
After flight queries, searches for package holidays have been leading the Bali Google queries, with a trend towards “hassle free travel”.
“In April, there was a 135 per cent increase in Aussies searching for all-inclusive resorts and packages. There’s definitely a trend towards removing some of the complexity from the travel journey, so once they get to their destination they want everything to be included,” Allen says.
Accommodation providers are tapping into this post-pandemic sentiment with a range of holiday packages designed to simplify travel.
Carol Waller, general manager at the Holiday Inn Resort Bali Benoa, says the property has just launched a “worry free” Pack and Go package in time for winter.
“It includes a return airport transfer and breakfast for two, and it’s just perfect for those who need a relaxing short escape to a tropical paradise,” Waller says.
Google’s findings echo what online travel agencies are seeing right now, with the cooler months driving an influx of bookings to the Indonesian province.
Expedia’s Lisa Perkovis says since the nation’s entry restrictions have eased, demand for Bali holidays has surged.
“Bali was the most popular international destination for Australian travellers over Easter on Expedia.com.au, and at this stage, remains the top destination for winter getaways,” says Perkovic.
Indonesia lifted mandatory quarantine requirements in March, and further relaxed restrictions in mid-May by doing away with outdoor mask mandates and allowing fully-vaccinated travellers to forgo COVID-19 entry tests.
April data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show Australians’ appetite for overseas travel has increased sharply in recent months, with the number of outbound resident departures from Australia almost doubling since March, though figures remain well below pre-COVID levels.
The spike in travel interest for Bali comes amid concerns over a rapid outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Indonesia.
Some agriculture experts are calling to ban tourism to the region to help stop the spread of the disease to Australia.