Staycations on the rise for Brits this summer

With the holiday season unfolding, leading travel site TripAdvisor has revealed travel trends that have emerged for Brits during the peak summer travel period.

Research of the British TripAdvisor community showed that 2014 will be the summer of the staycation for Brits, with six British destinations featuring in the top 15 global list. London and Edinburgh top the list in first and second place respectively, while the UK cities Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham also feature in the top 15. And apparently city breaks in general are proving a hit for British travellers, as 11 of the top 15 are revealed to be city destinations.

If not staying in the UK, staying close to home is the trend as the top 15 is dominated by five European destinations. Only four destinations in the hot list this year are located outside of the continent – Sharm El Sheikh, New York City, Orlando and Dubai, VisitScotland said in its release.

For those looking for a vacation outside the UK, Sharm El Sheikh is the most popular holiday destination in third place, followed by New York City in fourth.

Brits are also aiming high on the staycation, with more than 46% of travellers focusing on 4-star hotels and over 20% opting for the ultimate in luxury with 5-star properties. Of the travellers with a more modest budget, 27% are focused on 3-star properties, and on the lower end of the scale only 5% are interested in 2-stars and a meagre 1% on 1-star hotels.

The research further revealed that under the attractions tab on TripAdvisor, the five most popular activities for British travellers are: outdoor, cultural, amusement, museums and landmarks.

Commenting on the trend, VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: ‘To have both Edinburgh and Glasgow featured in the top 10 destinations for British travellers this summer is wonderful news. In terms of value and volume of visitors, the UK remains our biggest market and one which we are always striving to build on.

‘Both Edinburgh and Glasgow – which appear second and ninth respectively – offer a multitude of fantastic attractions and experiences for visitors. With such an exciting summer ahead, including the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the ever-popular Edinburgh Festival, it comes as no surprise that UK visitors would want to visit these incredible destinations.

‘As Scotland welcomes the world in 2014 with over 850 Homecoming events, the upcoming Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup, I would encourage everyone to head out and explore the wide range of first-class attractions that can be found right on our doorstep.’


TUI to launch in-flight iPad trials this summer

TUI UK & Ireland, which operates the Thomson and First Choice brands, has announced that it will launch an in-flight iPad trial in the summer for Thomson Airways crew at its Luton Airport base.

The move comes after TUI UK & Ireland successfully introduced a multi-million pound technology programme across its entire overseas network.

Part of the TUInnovate programme, the iPad project seeks to enhance customer satisfaction and differentiate TUI UK & Ireland’s experience for customers. With the iPad project, cabin crew will have access to information about the customers’ destination and can make recommendations about the best excursions for their party, restaurants and places to shop. The crew will also have access to customers’ historic booking information, helping them to recognise loyal and returning customers and provide a more personal service.

The iPads will also enable TUI UK & Ireland to connect its cabin crew with overseas holiday advisors, passing on any and all relevant information on customers who are set to arrive at the resort.

Carl Gissing, Director of Customer Service for Thomson Airways, said: ‘This programme will really help us take our customer service to the next level as cabin crew will be able to make recommendations to customers about what to see and do in resort, and even suggest a quiet spot to enjoy a sunset.

It will also allow us to recognise loyal and returning customers, which we know they will appreciate. This programme is just one of many ways in which we as a business are focusing on innovation and we can’t wait for all our customers travelling from Luton this summer to experience the benefits it offers.’

Following the introduction of iPads, TUI UK & Ireland has reportedly received impressive feedback from overseas employees and customers with an increase in customer satisfaction questionnaire (CSQ) results overall, particularly for ‘Holiday Overall’ scores.

Following the trial, Thomson Airways will roll the programme out across all UK Airport bases in 2015.


Thomson and First Choice offer increased choice for Scottish customers

Thomson and First Choice have announced plans to increase capacity at the Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports in summer 2015 with the introduction of 34,000 extra seats. The holiday brands will also add five new routes including Dubrovnik, Croatia and Marrakesh, Morocco from Glasgow; Antalya, Turkey and Rhodes, Greece from Edinburgh; and Faro, Portugal from Aberdeen.

The new routes went on sale on April 24.

With the expansion, Scottish customers will be able to choose varying duration holiday packages (not just the standard seven and 14 night stays) to some new destinations with access to some of Thomson and First Choice’s most popular hotels. These include the new Thomson Couples Atlantic Palace in Sorrento, Italy for summer 2015, which will be served by flights from Glasgow to Naples, and Thomson Sensatori Resorts in Ibiza and Turkey’s Dalaman region.

Croatia’s popular Dubrovnik region will be served from Glasgow, offering holidaymakers the chance to enjoy a cruise and stay in Dubrovnik for the summer season.

Aberdeen Airport offers more choice to passengers travelling to Palma, Majorca with the introduction of an additional flying day, bringing the total number of destinations served from Aberdeen to six in summer 2015. Edinburgh Airport will serve 16 destinations from next summer, and Glasgow 32 destinations, including additional Paphos, Cyprus; Dalaman, Turkey; and Ibiza flights.

Commenting on the expansion, Karen Switzer, Director of Aviation Planning for Thomson and First Choice, said: ‘Expanding access to our portfolio of destinations and hotels is a key part of our overall strategy and we hope that this move will enhance the holiday experience for our customers.’

Francois Bourienne, commercial director at Glasgow Airport, said: ‘The decision by Thomson and First Choice to add Dubrovnik and Marrakesh to the long list of destinations it already serves from Glasgow Airport is clear evidence of its willingness to respond to an increase in demand for these new and exciting destinations.’

Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh airport added: ‘It’s fantastic news that Thomson and First Choice are providing more choice to Antalya and Rhodes from Edinburgh where these popular destinations will be even more accessible. We look forward to working with Thomson to continue to expand customer choice and ensure that all travelling through Edinburgh Airport will have a fantastic start to their holiday’.


easyJet announces schedule for Summer 2014

easyJet, a UK-based budget airline, has announced its schedule for summer 2014 to 100 destinations across Europe, Northern Africa, Russia and Iceland.

More than 11.5 million seats are on sale for travel from June 16 to September 14, 2014, an increase of almost 300,000 seats on the summer of 2013. The announcement will enable customers to book early and benefit from the lowest fares for their summer holidays and breaks next year.

For British holidaymakers looking for a city break, the most popular easyJet destinations for next summer are likely to be Amsterdam, Barcelona, Geneva and Reykjavik, Iceland, for which easyJet has over 154,000 seats available across its network. Beach lovers and those looking for sunny spots have over 204,000 seats in total to select on easyJet flights to Palma and the Canary Islands, also available for travel between June 16 and September 14, 2014.

Holidaymakers and travellers looking for city breaks closer to home or those flying on business in the UK will also be able to benefit from easyjet’s extensive network. Around 81,000 seats are on offer to Belfast, Edinburgh and The Isle of Man for the same period, the airlines said.

Cath Lynn, easyJet’s group commercial director, said: ‘We’re so pleased to be launching easyJet’s summer 2014 schedule. With just under 12 million seats available, we’re offering a wide choice of destinations on our easy and affordable flights spanning the UK, Europe and beyond.

‘Whether travelling regularly on business or for a holiday, there really is something for everyone. The earlier you book the bigger the savings.’

Summer 2014 routes are available in the range of approximately £32 to £34, for two people travelling on the same booking.

easyJet flies over 200 aircraft on more than 600 routes between over 130 airports in 30 countries.

British Airways to increase flights from Gatwick for summer 2014

British Airways is planning to increase its services from Gatwick to some of its most popular destinations for the summer of 2014.

The carrier is planning to add another Boeing 777-200 to its Gatwick fleet next year to offer enhanced services to holidaymakers looking to fly to Florida and the Caribbean. With the additional flight, British Airways will increase its number of flights to Orlando from 10 times weekly to 13, while its St Lucia service will increase from 6 weekly to daily.

An additional flight per week will be operated to Punta Cana, Antigua and Kingston, as they will be served 3, 6 and 4 times weekly respectively.

Peter Simpson, British Airways’ director for Gatwick, said: ‘From next year our customers will be able to fly more often to many of our most popular destinations.

‘Adding an extra Boeing 777 to our Gatwick fleet has enabled us to enhance our fantastic flying schedule by increasing flights to our top leisure destinations, giving our customers even more choice.’ He added: ‘With so much to choose from holiday-makers are spoilt for choice; from our 13 flights a week to Orlando to our brilliant daily service to St Lucia, everyone will get a stunning start to their holidays with British Airways.’

Matt Wood, head of airline relations at London Gatwick, said: ‘We are delighted that British Airways will be basing a tenth Boeing 777 at London Gatwick.

‘This means passengers will now have an even greater choice of when to travel to the most popular leisure destinations across the US and Caribbean.’

The additional aircraft brings the number of British Airways Boeing 777s based at Gatwick up to ten, as well as 18 Boeing 737s, four Airbus A319s and one Airbus A320.

Earlier this month, British Airways also said that it would add an additional flight on its London Heathrow to Mexico City service from October this year.


ABTA offers top ten tips for holidaymakers

ABTA, a UK-based travel agent’s association, has offered its top ten travel tips to help Britons enjoy a trouble-free holiday when planning their summer vacations.

1. Check your passport in advance – Check the validity of your passport well before the travel date to avoid the extra expense of having to fast track the renewal. Also, many countries outside of Europe require six months validity after the departure date, failing which travellers may be refused entry.

2. Weigh your luggage – Weigh your bags before you leave home to ensure they meet the airline’s baggage allowance, thereby avoiding expensive supplements at the airport.

3. Tell your bank you are travelling – Banks are always on guard for fraudulent transactions, so if they do not know when or where you are overseas they may block your ATM card from overseas use.

4. Be aware of restrictions when bringing back goods on your return – Refer to the full list of what you can and cannot bring back from your holiday destination. If you are travelling outside Europe it is often illegal for you to carry back food-based goods.

5. Make your drinks last longer – Spirit measures overseas are generally more generous than in the UK, so save money and your liver by opting for a mixer rather than more alcohol.

6. Buy travel insurance – Avoid the possibility of high medical bills by taking out travel insurance. It might be of help to know that treatment for a broken leg in the US costs around GBP44,000.

7. Get vaccinated – When travelling outside Western Europe, North America or Australasia, it is advisable to consult a medical professional to receive all of the necessary jabs to protect against preventable diseases.

8. Lunch like the locals – On a holiday it always helps to adopt the habits of local people, especially when it comes to food.

9. Learn a few words in the local language – one of the most basic things to do, but it will be greatly appreciated by the locals.

10. Learn these travel tips before you go.

ABTA said that it expects 14 million Brits to holiday overseas between July and September this year. There is still availability for locations including Mallorca, Turkey and the Canary Islands.


UK travel firms hit by heat wave, shares plunge

As Britain registers its first prolonged heat wave since 2006, travel agents have reported a 25 percent fall in booking for overseas holidays.

According to Steve Endacott, founder of the On Holiday Group, the drop is exactly the same size as the one following the Icelandic ash cloud crisis in 2010. ‘Few of us saw this coming. My personal conclusion is that [the slump] will probably last as long as the heat wave does,’ he reportedly told The Independent.

‘Rather than delaying the booking decision, [the heat wave] may be simply removing customers from the market.’ Endacott said, adding. ‘When a heat wave hits, it’s very tempting to shelve the overseas holiday and just sit in the garden.’

Amid concerns over the impact of the UK heat wave on foreign holiday bookings, the Stock Exchange saw shares in travel firms plunge on Wednesday. Thomson and First Choice owner, Tui Travel, fell as much as 4.5 percent, before closing 2.9 percent lower at GBP3.655, dropping from an all-time high. Thomas Cook slid 2.1 percent to GBP1.426, after earlier losing as much as 3 percent.

Budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair also plunged, with the former dipping GBP0.08 to GBP13.50 in London, and the latter declining EUR0.128 cents to EUR6.95 in Dublin.

‘We understand that there has been some negative impact on late bookings across the scheduled and charter airline space with holiday-goers choosing domestic summer destinations over traditional European sun hot spots,’ Goodbody Stockbrokers expert, Donal O’Neill, said, adding that he had spoken to operators and airlines in both the UK and Ireland to assess the impact on their latest trading.

‘There was broad agreement that a continuation of trend could take some of the froth out of margins,’ he added.

The Independent had earlier reported that the travel industry was expecting better sales of last-minute holidays than last year, when Britons stayed back to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.


Parents Shell Out GBP2,474 to Keep Children Entertained during Summer

With the UK schools closed for summer, British parents may have to shell out around GBP2,474 on childcare and entertainment this summer to keep their children occupied.

A survey of 5,000 British parents shows that summer breaks are often a cause of worry for working parents, as they have to allow for the additional expense of having children at home when both parents are working, or for the cost of keeping them entertained during bad weather.

Worried parents are likely to spend, an average of GBP351 on childcare, GBP504 on day outings, and GBP665 on supplementary transportation and food, as they struggle to keep children busy in summer camps, on entertainment programmes, and holidaying with the family.

Around 17 percent of parents with children below 18 years of age have opted not to take a vacation this summer, while 53 percent of parents surveyed are likely to restrict their vacation to the UK.

Travelodge, a UK based company operating a chain of budget hotels, has reported an increase in ‘staycations’, the buzzword for Brits holidaying in the UK, according to its reservation data.

Travelodge spokesperson, Shakila Ahmed, said, ‘We’re calling it ‘hotel hopping’. We have seen a significant rise this year of people visiting two or three destinations in a week rather than staying at just one. Families might stop off at Eastbourne, Brighton and Bognor Regis exploring the Sussex coast, for example.

Resourceful Britons are making one holiday feel like more, which is a great way of keeping the children entertained during the holidays.

Parents told us that entertaining children on rainy days is GBP53 more expensive than on dry days. More rain could really put the Wellington boot into already cash-strapped parent’s budgets.’


British Holidaymakers Still Undecided About Summer Holidays

While substantial numbers of British holidaymakers are planning to take a holiday in the UK this year, many others are still undecided according to Visit England, the official travel promotional agency for England.

Around 10.3 million British holidaymakers have planned to take their vacation within the UK this year, with around 8.9 million people specifically planning to travel to English destinations, according to the study.

These vacations are likely to boost local economies by around GBP2.3bn in the UK, with around GBP1.9bn to be spent in England alone.

It is likely that around 5.9million British travellers will be holidaying abroad during the same period this year.

Even at this late stage it is estimated that around 10.8 million British holidaymakers are yet to decide on a summer vacation, mainly due to increasing concerns about the financial situation and the inclement weather, while 22 percent of those surveyed are waiting for a last minute deal that will suit their budget, before deciding on a holiday.

James Berresford, the chief executive of VisitEngland, said, ‘I am delighted to see that over ten million people are planning to holiday at home this summer.

The industry has a vast opportunity to inspire those still undecided and convince them that England is the place to be this summer.

If we convert even half of those who are undecided about taking a summer break in England, we could potentially contribute an additional GBP600 million to the UK economy.

The trend for last minute bookings is strong; this coupled with the recent return of sunshine to our shores could provide the industry with a welcome boost.’


The Heat Rises: Good News for Tourism and Hotels, Scotland

The March heat wave sweeping the UK has given Scotland its hottest Spring day since 1965. Reaching 23.6C in Aboyne on the 28th, the heat wave has lasted three days so far and is set to continue. Beach goers flocked to the Scottish coast yesterday and the parks and gardens of Glasgow, St Andrews and throughout Fife. Spring holiday makers have received a pleasant surprise over the past week as Scotland wide is revelling in the sunshine as though it were the peak of summer. Holiday makers are taking advantage of the many hotels in Scotland and enjoying the famous scenery.

Scotland has hit the headlines several times in March for its good weather, contrary to a common belief on the continent that the weather there, and across most of the UK, is cold and unaccommodating either side of summer. In fact, Scotland has been warmer than Majorca, Barcelona and Nice this week. Many Scottish holiday makers who travelled to Europe in search of the sun have actually experienced colder climates than they would have done in their own back garden. In a strange turn of events, Scotland was thus one of the hottest places to be on holiday in Europe.

With the Easter holidays just around the corner, it is hoped that the good weather will continue as many English families head to Scotland for their Easter break instead of forking-out for a foreign trip.

At the same time, Scotland, along with the rest of Europe, has seen a drop in hotel room prices. The change comes as the economy struggles to recover after the recent recession, and reflects the fact that people are more reluctant to make big spends on foreign holidays.

The drop in prices, though, could see more people booking last minute summer breaks, and Scotland could see an influx of tourists this summer as people look for fun and adventure closer to home. Scotland has an enduring reputation as the best place to go in the UK for adventure and activity holidays, with sports such as mountain biking and kayaking perfectly suited to the Highlands and lochs.

World class golf, particularly in St Andrews, also lures tourists looking for a luxury break, with opulent 5 star hotels priding themselves on tradition and heritage that is exclusively Scottish. Live performances have also become an important factor in the Scottish tourist industry, with Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world, attracting more and more visitors every summer.

So, Scottish hoteliers and outdoor adventure centres will be hoping to see the unusually hot weather continue over Easter, and into the summer. With so many reasons to spend a UK break in Scotland, it will be interesting to see how its tourist receipts and international visitors increase this year.