Travel agents reporting a last-minute surge in bookings as wet summer drives Britons to seek sun, sea and surf, reports Claire Smith
LIKE a lot of other businesses, the travel industry had been hit hard by the recession – but there is no mistaking a lot of travel agents and tour operators have a spring in their step.
The Olympics did not have the expected impact on holiday bookings and there has been an unexpected surge in the number of people choosing package holidays.
Travel agents and tour operators at the annual ABTA travel convention were in optimistic mood, reporting a last-minute surge in business because of the poor summer.
Hugh Morgan, managing director of Cosmos Holidays, said: “A lot of people here have had a good summer. It is a small industry and I get the feeling that everyone is feeling more confident.”
Many tour operators and travel agents were talking about a last-minute boost to sales of overseas holidays as Brits took the opportunity to escape the cold and rain.
Daniele Broccoli, of Typically Italian Holidays, said: “With this summer we have had this year and last year people were glad to know at least they were going to have a week of sun.”
Figures released by ABTA this week show that the average number of holidays taken by consumers is down to 3.5 a year from 3.8 in 2010. However, those aged between 15 and 24 are bucking the trend – taking an average of almost five holidays a year.
Short trips to music festivals are one of the reasons younger people are going away more often, but, ironically, the internet-savvy generation is increasingly likely to forego online booking, with 30 per cent booking breaks away through a travel agent.
One of the surprising trends to emerge from this year’s ABTA travel survey has been an increase in the popularity of package holidays. Once seen as naff, the package holiday is enjoying an unexpected resurgence.
Nearly half of those questioned in 2012 (48 per cent) said they had booked a package holiday compared to 42 per cent in 2011 and 37 per cent in 2010. The trend was particularly marked in 35 to 44-year-olds, with more than half (51 per cent) saying they had booked an overseas package holiday in 2012. Victoria Bacon, head of communications for ABTA, said: “In recent years consumers have come to value the security and cost-effectiveness that package holidays provide. At the same time, the market has evolved to offer greater choice to holidaymakers.
“Many people are realising there are a huge variety of package holidays now available. The market has evolved massively and is now very sophisticated, with packages to cater for every taste and budget – whether you want two weeks’ all-inclusive in the sun, a cruise round Asia or an adventure holiday in South America.”
Cruise operators at the convention reported little fall-out since the Costa Concordia disaster in January, saying consumers were very resilient and believed in the industry. Kevin Sheehan, chief executive of the Norwegian Cruise Line, told the conference about a new supercruiser currently under construction.
The New Yorker said the Norwegian Breakaway, which will carry 4,000 passengers, will have a New York theme, with three Broadway shows on board, top restaurants and work from New York visual artists.
The ship, due to be launched in April next year, will sail from New York to Bermuda, Florida and the Carribean.
When it comes to booking, ABTA research shows recession- weary consumers are changing their habits, with six out of ten saying they had changed the time they booked their holidays – either booking early to pick up better deals or waiting till the last minute to try and bag a bargain.
Scots were more likely than average to book in advance, with 44 per cent opting to book early, compared to 34 per cent in the UK.
According to ABTA figures, Scots were more likely to book an adventure holiday and less likely to opt for a week on the beach.
Some 12 per cent of Scots said they had booked an adventure holiday compared to 5 per cent across the UK. Only 27 per cent of Scots said they had booked a beach holiday compared to 43 per cent overall.
And despite having an abundance of lakes and mountains at home, Scots were far more likely to look for lakes and mountains abroad. Sixteen per cent of those questioned said they had chosen this type of break compared to 11 per cent in the UK.
Unsurprisingly, ABTA, which represents both tour operators and travel agents, was keen to emphasise the advantages of booking through a travel agent rather than putting together a DIY holiday plan online.
Their research shows some people are so obsessed with finding the best deal they spend an average of three working days online. Victoria Bacon said: “Holidays are a big expenditure for many people. However, it’s clear that a lot of people are investing considerable amounts of their own time and effort when booking a DIY holiday to the extent they could take a mini- break in the time taken.”
Futurologist William Higham told delegates it was important to be on the lookout for possible future trends. He predicted a rise in the number of holidays aimed at single parents and at multi- generational groups, with parents and grandparents making a holiday party. He said it was important to give holidaymakers access to internet and social networks but predicted a rise in the need to switch off.
Mr Higham said there was money to be made in giving people the opportunity to get away from the omnipresent phones, computers and mobile networks. He said giving people the chance to get cut off – “digital detox” – was likely to be a feature of holidays of the future.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west