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ABTA’s Holiday trends


2004 has been a very dynamic year in the travel industry, with increasing changes in the way we book and take holidays, and no sign that the growth in foreign holidays is slowing.

Major industry players are also reporting that bookings for summer 05 are positive.

Package holiday destinations are becoming more far-flung, more varied and more flexible in terms of how long customers go for and whether they opt in or out of various holiday elements. Meanwhile, satisfaction rates for package holidays are still extremely high 1 .

On the whole, ABTA members are booking more bespoke, tailor-made arrangements and are taking advantage of the increase in flight routes and the growth in the number of cruise ships, and competitive airfares.

Destination Hot Spots for 2004

Although Spain and France are still by far the most popular countries for UK holidaymakers, non-Eurozone countries saw a terrific amount of growth during summer 2004. Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey, and Slovenia all proved to be incredibly popular short haul alternatives that offered good value for money in the face of the strengthening Euro.

For summer 2004, ABTA members experienced a growth in bookings for the following countries:

Non-Eurozone countries:









North Africa






and Tunisia)



The States












Sri Lanka


Without exception, these destinations are set to continue a growth trend in 2005.

The MORI survey ‘Package Holidays 2004` found that 95% of consumers thought that their holiday was good value for money and 94% reported that they were very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their holiday.

Britain`s Favourite Destinations for 2005:


It seems that Brits just can`t get enough of Spanish culture, weather and lifestyle and in 2004 Spain was again the most popular leisure destination.

However, the type of holiday we are buying in Spain is changing and becoming more diverse as we become more familiar with the country. At the lower end of the market, holidaymakers have always known that they can get good cheap deals in Spain, but with a high Euro, Spain has faced stiff competition from other non-Euro countries. One major tour operator pulled its programme from the Costa Brava blaming the move on hoteliers who had not upgraded their accommodation.

City breaks to Barcelona, Madrid, and Bilbao are as popular as ever, while holidaymakers on beach breaks often visit the Moorish cities of Grenada, Seville and Cordoba in the South. Themed holidays such as riding, dancing, golfing and trekking are all becoming more popular in Spain as holidaymakers want more out of their holiday experience.

The Balearic Islands including Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca are the most popular area of Spain. Mallorca and Menorca traditionally attract family visitors, while San Antonio Ibiza has become the number one name in club chic and so appeals to a younger audience. The Canary Islands of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuertaventura – situated just off the North Western coast of Africa – are volcanic and have a sub-tropical dry and warm climate. This means that they are popular during summer and also busy during the winter months.


France was knocked from its top spot as the UK`s favourite destination by Spain in 2003 and has stayed at number two in 2004. But our nearest neighbour may well be on the brink of a revival. Not only are Eurostar`s passenger numbers growing, but the train company is adding the South of France to its routes in summer 2005. Extra routes from regional UK airports to Paris are also starting up next year. Added to this is the added intrigue provided by blockbuster thriller ‘The Da Vinci Code`, which is due to be made into a film next year. Already visitor numbers since the publication of the book to the Louvre, are up by 17.6 per cent, and with Columbia pictures confirming Ron Howard as director and a possible George Clooney as lead, Paris may well be on the brink of a renaissance all of its own.

France also still offers a huge range of holiday products for Brits. Golf, cultural, gastronomic and spa holidays are all very popular. One of the big attractions of France is the ease and choice of access. Holidaymakers can travel by air, rail or sea and areas that used to be remote such as Carcassonne, the Pyrenees and the South of France have now opened up as short break destinations.

Perennial favourites remain, such as the Loire with its amazing number of chateaux and wine, while in the summer the beaches and campsites of Brittany, the Western Loire, Vendee and Aquitaine are flooded with British families.

France is also the UK`s favourite ski destination, as not only has it the highest resorts in Europe, it also has the biggest ski areas too.


In preparation for the Olympic Games in 2004, Greece made enormous improvements to its infrastructure, and this has increased its potential to diversify the types of holidays it can offer. Athens is no longer the polluted and congested city it once was. It is now becoming an exciting city break destination. Not only has it got restaurants and art galleries to rival other main European cities, but it also has unique ancient sites. Holiday suggestions for 2005 include using Athens as a base for exploring both the Greek mainland and other islands as flight times to even the most southern most islands can be as little as 35 minutes.

While Greece is also experiencing a growth in agro and eco-tourism, it is investing in its many spas and upgrading a great deal of accommodation for mainstream and traditional holidays.

The islands of Corfu, Crete and Rhodes are the most popular islands for British holidaymakers, while the Cyclades, including the popular islands of Mykonos and Ios, and the Dodecanese, including Rhodes, are likely to be popular with those who enjoy island-hopping.

4. USA

The weak dollar was the big story for US tourism in 2004 as visitor numbers returned to pre 9/11 levels. Summer bookings were up by 13 per cent, while flight only tickets to New York in November – a peak time anyway due to Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping – were up by a staggering 127 per cent. British holidaymakers and shoppers now find that their spending money goes even further in the States, but the growth was also driven by good value airfares, thanks to higher capacity put on by American airline carriers, and because this has kept competition strong, fares have remained cheap.

The US attracts a high percentage of repeat visitors as one trip is never enough to take in its rich diversity. Florida, with its miles of white sandy beaches, warm waters and theme parks – tends to be the first choice for first-time British visitors, with New York, California and the New England states as favourites for those on subsequent visits. Growth is expected to continue in 2005.


Lovers of art, music and architecture flock to the cultural centres of Rome, Venice, Verona and Florence, but as if this wasn`t enough, Italy also showcases its globally adored cuisine among beautiful countryside, mountains and lakes. No-frills airlines continue to put on routes to Italy, even though a major Italian no-frills carrier went under in 2004.

Italy`s islands of Sardinia and Sicily are also attractive destinations – with Sardinia especially renowned as being exclusive. However, a major British tour operator has added programmes to both these destinations, and these are already proving popular.

Italy is also home to some spectacular lakes and mountains and is very much a mainstream ski destination.


Ireland offers a quiet and relaxed pace of life amongst friendly, hospitable people. The types of accommodation available are wide-ranging and the standard is high. Dublin has a rich history and diverse cultural attractions which together with the increased number of competitively priced flights and the appeal of Temple Bar has made it the number one city-break destination for stag and hen parties wanting to sample Ireland`s craic. In addition the lush green countryside of County Kerry and the West Coast with the relaxed pace of life are a great attraction. However, a third of all visits to the Republic are for the purpose of visiting friends and family.


Amsterdam remains one of the most frequently visited cities in Europe due to its laid back attitudes and great art. But the Hague and Maastrict also feature in a number of British city break programmes. The country is also sold as a great destination for a short holiday, which can be combined with a visit to its neighbour Belgium and the medieval cities of Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.


Portugal saw visitor numbers swell during summer 2004 as it hosted Euro 2004. The Algarve is number one hot spot, with its unspoilt Atlantic beaches and some of the finest golf courses in the world, while Lisbon – the lively and cosmopolitan capital – and Oporto are popular city breaks. Oporto, known for its famous port wine lodges and hilly, atmospheric old quarter is linked by spectacular bridges. Many forget that Portugal is a gastronomic delight, with great wine options and tasty seafood. Portugal also boasts a number of historical cities, including Guimares, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Coimbra, which is a romantic city considered to be the Oxford of Portugal, universities, monuments, cathedrals and medieval churches grace the city.


As Turkey is still outside the eurozone, the British pound still goes a long way. As a result summer bookings were up 10 per cent. Interestingly, Turkey may well enter Europe, but further talks will not effect holidays in 2005.

Turkey is becoming increasingly a year round destination due to its southerly latitudes. And with a range of attractions repeat business for Turkey is estimated at 40%. With 5,000 miles of dramatic coastline, sun seekers, water sports and sailing enthusiasts are well catered for. Most still stick to the Turquoise coast in the south and west, and Antalya has become an attractive resort with several fine beaches. On the Aegean coast, Bodrum and Kusadasi are favourites for those looking for good beaches and a lively nightlife. Sailing on a budget is provided on the local yachts, gulets. Istanbul has also become a popular city break destination combining the best of east and west. Not known to many, Turkey also has some of the best preserved classical ruins in the world with the magnificent Greek city of Ephesus leading the way but also the cave towns and gorges of Cappadocia are one of the most unusual phenomena of the country.


Cyprus remains popular as a winter and summer destination. Larnaca in the southeast, Limassol in the South and Paphos in the west are the biggest resorts.

The Famagusta district, which produces vegetable crops for export, hosts the resort of Protaras and boasts the best beaches on the island including Pernera beach and Fig Tree Bay. Ayia Napa is also in this area, which for the past five years has been a by word for clubbing. Despite a crack down on rowdy and bad behaviour and a concerted effort from the Cypriots to reposition the resort as a family centred destination, ‘Napa` will still appeal to the serious dance music fan.

As a destination to get married in, Cyprus has grown dramatically over the last couple of years as there is a large number of churches which will conduct this kind of ceremony.


With its 35 different countries, the Caribbean annually attracts over three quarters of a million UK visitors. Although the main attractions are undoubtedly the beaches, the differences of culture and the range of holidays people can go on is immense. The Caribbean is full of European flavours and the attractions of the lively resorts of Jamaica and Cuba are very different from the quiet elitist islands that only celebrities and the mega rich can afford. In recent years, the Caribbean has become more accessible to families with the introduction and expansion of all-inclusive hotels and resorts.

The top five countries for UK visitors are Barbados, Dominican Republic, Cancun in Mexico, Jamaica, and Cuba. Cuba has particularly experienced mass-market growth, with all of the major tour operators supporting year round programmes.

Havana in Cuba is set to retain its role as the party capital of the Caribbean, but Puerto Rico is also vying for this role. This is part of a general increase in popularity of the Spanish Caribbean which, with its cheaper prices but still good standards, are attracting a new, more budget conscious traveller. At the other end of the scale, Anguilla – the perfect rock star hideaway – and Turks & Caicos have become the new hip destinations. Both have perfect unspoilt beaches, fantastic diving and are still very undeveloped.



Many of the Central and South American countries are tipped for success in 2005, but the big money is on Brazil. Direct charter flights will leave once a week from the end of 2005, from Gatwick to Natal in the North East of Brazil. The country has so much going for it, including a rich and vibrant cultural heritage, amazing beaches, and the biggest rain forests and rivers in the world. Your money will also go far and who knows, you may even get to see the world`s best footballers play.


The most affluent of the former Yugoslavian countries, Slovenia has an amazing variety of settings to go along with its Habsburg Empire and Venetian Republic heritage. Bled Castle is perhaps the most well-known tourist attraction, but the country has a small but charming coastline, the Julian Alps and an extraordinary array of caves.


This country has always offered great value for money, great coastlines, good skiing and lively cities, but investment in new hotels and improved infrastructure over recent years means that it can compete with the Mediterranean countries on an even footing.


With the wars which tore apart the old Yugoslavia becoming a distant though tragic memory, more and more Brits are rediscovering the delights of Croatia. Most people travel to the beautiful Italianate resorts of Dubrovnik, Split and Rovign on the Dalmatian coast. The hundreds of idyllic islands dotted along this coast make for perfect sailing, and the crystal clear sea and the good value for money, has meant that the country has experienced steep growth in the number of visitors in the past few years. The region before the wars had aimed to attract mass tourism, but now development has taken a more sustainable upmarket approach.


UK tourists are increasingly visiting Malaysia. City tourists will love Kuala Lumpur for the tallest building in the world – the twin Petronas Towers, its shopping and the Formula One Grand Prix, which will be held in March. However, there is also plenty to satisfy adventure and nature lovers in the form of spectacular diving and the orang utangs in Borneo.


Africa has so much diversity to offer holidaymakers. The Arab states in the north – particularly Morocco and Egypt have always been a huge draw to the British traveller attracted to culture, ancient history and architecture. In East Africa Kenya has always been a favourite for safaris, but also has fantastic beaches on offer, while Tanzania, with the Ngorongoro crater teeming with wildlife and the beaches of Zanzibar is a close rival. Zambia, Namibia and South Africa however, now all offer fantastic and varied safari opportunities, while South Africa is consolidating its growth as a favourite destination for wine, cuisine and – for the insane – cage diving for Great Whites!


Bookings to Egypt have really driven growth to Africa in 2004. Many of the major tour operators are supporting programmes that not only take visitors to see the ancient sites in either Cairo or the Valley of the Kings, but either twin the cultural part of the holiday with a trip to the Red Sea. Increasingly tourists ditching the culture in favour of the exciting scuba diving and year-round sunshine of the Sinai desert. Great value for money and excellent hotel accommodation is also securing growth.


Is again in high demand, not only with independent travellers, but also with those on inclusive tours. With a wide array of attractions – great beaches, ancient culture, jungle treks, diving and the craziest capital city in Asia – Thailand remains one of the best selling long haul destinations.


Again, Australia was voted as the ‘dream destination` in ABTA`s biennial survey conducted by MORI on attitudes to holidays. It has also long been a favourite gap year destination. However, Australia no longer has to be a holiday of a lifetime destination as together with Virgin`s newly launched routes to Australia, and continuing competition between the domestic airlines, reasonable airfares are set to stay.


Are attracting ever more visitors, while increasingly becoming holidaying nations themselves. 2005 will see increased capacity to both these destinations.


Dubai has led the way in investing in luxury hotels and attracting leisure visitors from the UK but with the development of the man-made Palm Island, it has taken tourism innovation to new heights. Qatar and Oman have also now decided to develop their tourism potential and are continuing to invest in the sector. Both have great beaches and duty free shopping, Qatar has announced six new routes from the UK and Ireland to Doha and growth to this destination seems assured, while Oman`s geography is dramatically different with mountain ranges and a stunning coastline.


The 2004 Passenger Shipping Association report announced that UK passengers on cruises past the one million mark in 2003 and that cruising is experiencing strong growth into 2005.

There has been a slight dip in average prices, which may have encouraged some of this growth and within this, fly-cruise is growing at 10 per cent, and revenue growth ahead at 18 per cent.

The most impressive growth can be seen coming through non-air cruises which is being driven by the agent direct sales channel and includes ex-UK cruises and mini-cruises. This is currently up 92 per cent, adding more than 19,000 passengers for summer 2005 to date (end of October). This may have been stimulated by a substantial drop in average cost per passenger of

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