Escape Expensive: Holiday Abroad

The online travel agency, On the Beach, has conducted a survey amongst its website users (so they aren’t representative of the population as a whole or even just of online users) and has come up with some figures that should worry the British domestic travel industry. 96% of all responders said that they will spend their summer holidays abroad in 2011 and the two most frequently given reasons were the weather and that British hotels were too expensive. 70% said that a holiday in the UK was more expensive than going abroad.

As I said, the survey is biased to users of the internet and On the Beach’s website in particular but that such a high figure is to be found, up by 23% over last years’ survey, means there are some questions that need answering. Whether a holiday in the UK is more expensive or not isn’t quite as important as that a number of people, rightly or wrongly, believe it to be so. If it’s wrong then we need to be told. If it’s not then, like Spain over the last few years, they need to become more competitive. Having had two pretty good years in attracting us to stay in the UK, domestic tourism needs to remember that most travelers will go for somewhere that appeals and somewhere they can get good value for money as the recent ABTA trends report showed.

Nonetheless, large numbers of us will go abroad, if for no other reason than to forget the winter and the weather. A hint of a wet and cool summer will see bookings rise. And if that happens will we go to the boom destinations of 2010?
The Far East did well last year. Visitors to Hong Kong were up by about a quarter and by the end of November some 18 million people had visited it. It was fueled by visitors from China, India, Japan, and Russia in the main but France, Germany, and Italy all sent much higher numbers. Usually, it is the new year fireworks in Sydney that lead the TV news stories on January 1st. This year it was the festivities in Hong Kong. Will we follow this trend and travel there in 2011?
After a shaky start to the year, Thailand bounced back and the tourism ministry is suggesting that just under 16 million people will have visited the country. Again, the surge is Asian led but European visitors were up over 8%. Travellers to Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia are up yet traditionally linked places like Australia are down. Will the Oprah Winfrey effect just before Christmas and all the worldwide publicity that it gathered encourage us to go there in 2011?

The Caribbean has suffered in the last year or so with unfair APD rates compared to its big neighbor in the US but Jamaica attracted more of us, admittedly from a small base. Still, it was their best performance in attracting us since 2006. And Mexico was found by the Post Office to be one of the best places to go for value for money. (as well as Sri Lanka).

One country that may not feature too high in places for us to visit this year could be Russia. Any country that has 9 different time zones in it must have lots of things to see and do. No, it’s because the tourism minister, Vitaly Mutko has said that bad roads, undeveloped infrastructure, and hotel capacity will deter a large scale influx of visitors. It is still St Petersburg and Moscow that attract people. Elsewhere there is little overseas tourism in comparison.

What’s the betting that it will be Egypt, Turkey, Spain, France and the usual places that most of us will go to this year?

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