Evan Petrelis is the renaissance man of Australian travel – pun intended.

Petrelis and his team at Renaissance Tours, which has been running high-end guided trips to the world’s cultural capitals since 1997, have flipped the business and are now focusing purely domestic travel, a move that has won favour among its cultured clients.

The new slogan is ‘Rediscover a World in One Country’ and offers opera, music, art, garden, gourmet tours of between one and 11 days throughout Australia. 

And Petrelis – who has a Master’s degree in translation and speaks six languages – says demand has been strong, even with premium price tags of up to $7600 for the longer trips of up 11 days.

“Absolutely, they’re selling well,” he says.

“The one day tours we’re operating now are in Sydney mostly, which is where most of our clients are based, but we’re also starting tours in other capital cities; Perth, Canberra, Brisbane and even Melbourne.”

He says the company first branched  into domestic travel during the GFC a dozen years ago and “ever since then that category has been growing for us”.

That said, pre-COVID, domestic business still only accounted for 20% of Renaissance Tours’ $15m turnover, 80% derived from international trips.

Domestic revenue is now 90% of a much smaller pie, a financial reality which has resulted in Petrelis, who bought the business from founder Hugh Hallard in 2017, standing down seven staff with he and the remaining 10 working 20 hour weeks.

Job Keeper has been a big help, he adds.

Petrelis believes virtually all Australia’s international borders will be closed through 2021, though there is a chance of travel bubbles with New Zealand plus and Asian and Pacific countries.

He remains positive about the future for travel but believes the full impact of COVID on the industry is yet to be felt.

“There’s going to be a lot of consolidation and a lot of re-organisation of travel,” says Petrelis.

“Unfortunately we haven’t hit the bottom yet with travel, especially international.

“I think the next year will be slim pickings for most players. I don’t think international travel will return in any meaningful way until 2022.

“If we get even three to four international tours away next year I will eat my hat.”

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