Britons shunning two-week holidays in favour of short breaks | Business

Britons have ditched the traditional two-week holiday in favour of shorter breaks as no-frills airlines have taken off over the last 20 years, according to official figures that also confirm the demise of the booze cruise.

A review of travel trends since the mid-1990s by the Office for National Statistics highlighted a dramatic rise in the number of holidays taken by UK residents. In 2016, they went on more than 45m foreign holidays, up from 27m in 1996. That was a 68% increase, while the UK population rose by 12% in the same period.

The ONS also found that seven- and 10-day holidays had become more popular than 14-day breaks.

ONS
(@ONS)

Since the 1990s, we’re going on more holidays… but they’re shorter than they used to be https://t.co/ixX4S2GbdD pic.twitter.com/yPOMfwTgSy


August 7, 2017

The types of holidays taken had also changed over those two decades, statisticians found. But there was little difference in Britons’ top destinations. Spain and France remained the most popular, albeit with a dip in journeys to France.

“One of the biggest changes we’ve seen over the last 20 years is the marked decline in the popularity of two-week holidays and the rise of short breaks,” the ONS said in a travel roundup released as many people head off for their summer breaks.

“The week-long break is a lot more popular than before, and there’s also been an increase in the number of holidays lasting 10 nights.”

Holiday durations

One of the most likely explanations for UK residents going on more but shorter holidays was the growth of budget airlines, the ONS said.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, EU leaders relaxed the rules to create a common aviation area across Europe, allowing low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair to enter the market, it noted. Between 1996 and 2015 – the most recent figures available – passenger numbers at UK airports increased by 85%, from 135m to 251m.

The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said its figures also showed that cheaper flights and greater flexibility by travel companies had driven a shift away from the standard two-week break in the sun and a rise in shorter breaks. The group also highlighted a rise in city breaks thanks to the EU’s Europe-wide “open skies” regulation.

Commenting on the ONS figures, an Abta spokeswoman said: “These stats are a reflection of how far we have come in 20 years and how important it is that we keep similar agreements in place post-Brexit.”

The ONS travel roundup also highlighted a steep decline over the past two decades in people travelling abroad and returning the same day. There were more than 2m trips with no overnight stay in 1996 but only 363,000 last year.

“This could be because many of these visits were booze cruises – journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes – which are no longer as cost-efficient as they used to be,” the ONS said.

“Duty-free sales within the EU ended in 1999, France has been ratcheting up the price of cigarettes since 2000, and in recent years the pound has fallen in value against the euro.”

Shoppers with trolleys of alcohol in a Calais hypermarket



Booze cruises to mainland Europe have become less popular as prices have risen in France and elsewhere. Photograph: Gary Calton for the Observer

While the general trend from 1996 to 2016 was a sharp rise in the number of holidays taken, the travel industry has faced tougher times since last summer’s Brexit vote. The pound fell sharply after the referendum, making overseas holidays more expensive and prompting some Britons to opt for staycations. The pound dropped to a 10-month low against the euro of about €1.10 on Monday.

The consultancy Deloitte said its latest research showed holiday spending had risen in the second quarter of this year from the first. But comparing consumer habits with a year ago showed the general pressures on household budgets from higher living costs.

“While spending on holidays was up quarter on quarter, the longer-term trend shows that it has fallen year on year,” said Simon Oaten, a partner for hospitality and leisure at Deloitte.

“These are the first signs of a weakening in consumer confidence with regards to their holiday spending, and it remains to be seen whether this proves to be a blip or the start of a prolonged slowdown that echoes what we have seen in other areas of the consumer market.”

Comparing the most popular holiday destinations in 1996 and 2016, the ONS report found Britons’ love affair with Spain had bloomed, with the number of holidays taken there annually up by 87% in 20 years. France was one of the few countries that UK tourists were now visiting less than in 1996, with the number of holidays there down 9%.

Seeking to explain the change, the ONS said: “Budget airlines may be behind this too: rather than driving to France on a ferry (the number of holidaymakers travelling by sea has declined by 33% since 1996), tourists are perhaps opting for a cheap flight elsewhere instead.”

Top 10 holiday destinations

Germany joined the top 10 destinations for UK holidaymakers and another new entry was cruising, which was four times as popular as it was 20 years ago. “This could be due to an ageing population, with increasing numbers of older people in the population,” the ONS said.

Two destinations that dropped out of the top 10 since 1996 were Belgium and Turkey. Outside the top 10, places that had grown in popularity since the 1990s included the United Arab Emirates, thanks to a jump in trips to Dubai. There was also an increase in visits to Iceland, starting about 2010, the ONS said.

“2010 was also the year that the volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted, sending clouds of ash into the skies above Europe and grounding planes across the world, and some think that the TV pictures of Iceland shown around the globe encouraged visitors to go there,” it added.

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