Aussies cashing in. Overseas holidays are up. Way up.

The Australian dollar is flying high and carrying an increasing number of passengers with it. We at Tourism Online want to share with you the the truth about what Australian travellers are doing to get the best bang for buck on their holiday.

The strength of the Australian dollar against foreign currencies, in particular the US Greenback, the British Pound and the Euro, is causing a mass rethink of travel plans. Local holiday spots are falling out of favour as global destinations become more affordable, and more appealing. The United States, Britain and Europe are now seen as realistic holiday options due to the low costs of flights, car hire and hotels in these regions compared to Australia. International air fares have been competitive for a number of years, but the newly-muscular Australian dollar is making shopping, accommodation and living costs much easier on the pocket as well.

This is reflected in the figures. In the year to June 2011, there was a 29% increase in the number of Australians travelling overseas, while a Mastercard survey conducted in the early months of 2011 showed that 25% of the respondents were making plans to travel overseas based solely on the improved exchange rate.

The most talked-about aspect of the rise and rise of the Australian dollar is its upward progress against the Greenback. In 2001, the Australian dollar was at its nadir, buying just 48 US cents. In early 2009, one Australian dollar would buy you around 65 US cents. A year later, the dollar was up around the 90 US cent mark, and now it’s pretty much a case of dollar for dollar. No wonder potential travellers are eyeing the California Coast rather than the Gold Coast. The islands of Hawaii are also in the sights of Australian travellers wanting to cut hours off a gruelling trans-Pacific flight. More flights, in conjunction with near parity of the respective Dollars, has seen a 36% increase in the number of Australians visiting Hawaii.

This upturn has a downside as far as local tourism operators are concerned. As overseas destinations become more popular, local tourist hot-spots have become lukewarm. Visitor numbers are declining, with many Australian holiday-makers happy to pay a little extra to travel further afield and enjoy their increased spending power once they reach their destination. Queensland, a Mecca for domestic visitors in years past, is feeling the effects. According to figures released by Queensland Tourism, the number of domestic tourists dropped by four per cent by March 2011, although this was offset by growth in the business visitor market.

The forecast for the Australian dollar? Depends on who you talk to. In the short to medium term, there is guarded optimism that the dollar will remain at its current high rate, but all eyes are on Europe – and not just as a holiday destination. The sovereign debt crisis in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and uncertainty in other nations such as Italy and France, could well be the great equalizers, with enough weight to bring the Australian dollar back to earth with a thud. But that’s all in the future as far as local travellers are concerned. Right now, their dollar is buying them more, and taking them further. As they jet towards foreign shores, they hope their home-grown currency remains sky-high as well.