British Travellers Return to Package Holidays

British travellers have started to favour package holidays once more, according to the results of recent research reported by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), a UK-based association for travel agencies.

During this year, around 48 percent of travellers have opted for overseas holiday packages, compared to 42 percent in 2011, and 37 percent in 2010. Holiday packages were massively popular in the 1970s, but then slowly made way for do-it-yourself holidays, where travellers preferred to book each component of their holiday separately.

The report also highlighted that the credit crunch is taking its toll on holiday habits, as in the 12 months to September 2012, Brits had taken around 3.5 holidays, a reduction on the 3.82 holidays taken in the same period in 2011.

Travellers have also booked more domestic holiday packages in 2012, with domestic holiday packages showing a rise of 23 percent, compared to a 12 percent rise in 2011, and 14 percent in the same period in 2010.

Victoria Bacon, the head of communications for ABTA, said, ‘Research shows safe and secure accommodation, financial protection, ATOL protection and ABTA membership are at the top of people’s booking essentials and packages can offer all of these.

At the same time the market has also evolved to offer greater choice to holidaymakers. It’s no longer just a week in Benidorm.

The market 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 around Asia or an adventure holiday in South America.’

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of ABTA, said ‘It appears that consumers are thinking more carefully about when they book their holidays. Many are booking earlier to take advantage of better deals and cheaper prices and often greater choice and availability.’

Turkey Offers Travellers An Insight into Islam

A religious tourism package that allows travellers to gain an in-depth knowledge of Islam is being offered in Turkey.

While the title of the package, ‘Muslim for a Month,’ could possibly be viewed with cynicism by the religion’s devout followers, the package is nevertheless an attempt to provide visitors with a detailed insight into Islam, especially in its moderate and tolerant form.

The tours are the brainchild of Ben Bowler, who runs cultural exchange programmes and intends to take travellers, especially non-Muslims from around the world, to Turkish mosques and homes to experience Islam firsthand. Bowler said that the tourism initiative would allow people to be exposed to the virtues of Islam, a religion that has been the recipient of much negative attention.

Bowler, who has been conducting the tours for some time, said that people’s attitudes are altered once they learn about the religion in detail. He said, ‘People are very visibly moved. There are lots of tears. It’s a rich, multi-layered experience and people are coming out with changed ideas and changed perceptions-they are more aware of the positive side of the religion than before.’

Bowler said that the title of the tour programme was considered to be rather provocative by some, but he added that Muslims have been showing support because of its good intentions. He said, ‘It’s a provocative title, ‘Muslim for a Month,’ so we were bracing ourselves for criticism. There has been a little of that – Being a Muslim is for life, not just a month.’

The programme is being offered by Bowler’s NGO World Weavers. Tour participants are taught the basics of Islamic practice. They study Islamic history and calligraphy, and are allowed to pray in mosques and live and eat with Muslim families. Tourists will also have to undergo a day of fasting. The travel package is for 10 or 21 days, and travellers are put up in a 400-year-old Sufi lodge in Istanbul’s Eyup district. They will also visit the ancient city of Konya to visit the tomb of Sufi mystic, Rumi, and learn his teachings.