Gold Coast to UK for $552

OH my god!

That was the reaction of Dutch backpacker Marjon Gijsam when she heard low-cost, long-haul airline Air Asia X was introducing flights that would take travellers from London to the Gold Coast for as little as $552 each way.

"I was planning to come back to Australia next year, and that is a very cheap flight," said the traveller who arrived on the Tweed yesterday and is staying with backpacker friend Fiona Leeuw at the Mount Warning YHA Riverside Backpackers in Murwillumbah.

"Especially with the amount of Euros you get for the Australian dollar; this is amazing. Our flights to Australia cost around 2000 Euro (nearly $4000), so it would even be cheaper for us to "

For Neville "Tassie" Duff, the owner of the hostel in Tumbulgum Street, Air Asia X's announcement that it will make five flights a week to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from London's Stansted airport, with four onward flights to the Gold Coast each week, is welcome news for the tourism industry.

"When the Australian dollar was low in the 1980s we used to be full with backpackers from the UK," Mr Duff said.

"But since then there has been a steady drop in the numbers from the UK, although we still get a lot from the rest of Europe.

"Backpackers travel where it is cheapest, so I hope theses flights will see more of these low-end travellers choose to travel here."

The no-frills flights where passengers will pay for meals, drinks and other activities, will be available from March 11 to October 24, 2009, and according to Tweed Tourism boss Phil Villiers, will bring more tourism dollars to the Tweed.

"With all of the events to be held on the Tweed next year, like the World Rally Championship, this is great news," Mr Villiers said.

"The launch of the Natural Landscapes campaign and the Tweed being named Australia's

"Natural Landscapes hopes to attract experience-seeking tourists who love nature and culture, and these numbers should also be boosted by the fact we have an interconnection with the UK and Europe."

The cheap flights that went on sale yesterday and are available to the end of the month have excited Tweed locals who are looking forward to heading to the UK and Europe.

University student Simone Healy of Tweed Heads will visit family in Ireland and tour Europe next year, and said Air Asia X deal was the cheapest she had seen.

"The cheapest flight I could find was $1300 return before tax and with four lay-overs," the 19-year-old said.

"Air Asia X would be about $1100 return with one lay-over."

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