AT LEAST half of all holidaymakers travelling to Australia are choosing to break either the outbound or the inbound journey with a stop in Asia, according to long-haul operators.
The number has been on the increase over the past 12 to 18 months due to the fact that stopping off in Asia is so much cheaper now than it was two to three years ago.
British Airways Holidays product manager Mandy Miller said: "Low prices are encouraging more people to cut their journey to Australia in half by stopping off in Asia.
"Accommodation and meals are so cheap in Asia at the moment that it makes sense for people to break their journey, and it also gives them a chance to shop."
Airlines are playing their part in increasing the amount of stopover traffic in the Far East by offering passengers the chance to break their journey free of charge.
Travel 2 air product director David Gibbs said: "The market is so competitive that using the offer of free stopovers is a way of persuading people to upgrade to the higher fares."
As well as waiving the usual charge for breaking journeys to Australia, airlines are offering passengers free or discounted accommodation in their chosen stopover destination.
For example, Qantas' tour operating arm Jetabout is offering free stopovers in Singapore up to December, and for a charge of £24 per person it is offering airport transfers and a city tour.
Five nights accommodation in Singapore booked through Jetabout starts at £75 per person based on two sharing.
Singapore Airlines offers ex-UK passengers accommodation in Singapore from £18 a night if they are travelling onwards on its flights to Australasia.
The New Singapore Stopover packages offer accommodation at a choice of 24 hotels, return airport transfers, admission to six tourist attractions, discounted shopping, dining, entertainment, sightseeing tours and car hire.
The deal is available until the end of March next year.
Singapore Airlines has invested £3.2m in the new stopover programme with the aim of attracting 250,000 stopover travellers from around the world.
Cathay Pacific has a similar stopover programme in Hong Kong which offers accommodation at a choice of six hotels from £16 for the first night's stay, plus discount dining at selected restaurants.
The price includes airport transfers and the stay may be extended for up to five nights at a discounted rate.
This Superstop programme is due to run until the end of this year.
Cathay Pacific also has a special "Stop and Shop" promotion for its passengers travelling to Australia on its flights from Manchester.
They are being offered free airport transfers, a free transit bus city tour, and a free refreshment voucher to the value of £7.50 valid at a choice of outlets in Hong Kong International Airport.
Hotels and tour operators are also doing more to promote stopovers.
Kuoni product manager Linda Miles said: "Hotels are pretty keen to attract stopover business so they are charging the same nightly rate for stays of just one or two nights as they charge for longer stays."
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