Off-season travel is set to become a growing trend following a summer of extreme weather in Europe and as holidaymakers seek value in the cos-of-living crisis.
May and June will be the most popular months to travel next year, followed by September and October, according to the Abta Holiday Habits report 2023, released on Tuesday.
For the first time since the annual survey launched in 2010, Abta asked 2,000 people when they plan to go on holiday in the year ahead, in addition to how and where they intended to go.
The survey was carried out in the last two weeks of August this year, shortly after the wildfires on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu that led to the evacuation of around 44,000 tourists and the first wave of high temperatures in southern Europe caused by the Cerberus heatwave.
Extreme weather disrupted the travel plans of many British holidaymakers and prompted some travel companies to extend their season, and add extra capacity, into October.
Emma Brennan from Abta told i that families with school-age children might also find better value when travelling in the October half-term holidays compared with the peak summer months.
In September, Tui announced that it would extend its Greece and Turkey package offerings into November, in response to increased demand. EasyJet similarly extended its Rhodes season into November.
“Going out of season is going to be more cost effective than going in peak season,” said Ms Brennan while discussing the results of the research.
Price-driven holiday choices
Despite the continued high cost of living, 84 per cent of people went on holiday in the previous 12 months, either at home or abroad, up from 77 per cent in 2022. They took an average of 3.4 holidays per person.
The proportion of people who took an overseas holiday had also increased, up from 42 per cent last year to 52 per cent.
That said, consumer prices, rent and mortgage repayments are affecting people’s travel plans, with 72 per cent saying living costs will impact their travel plans in the next 12 months. Of those looking to cut back on their travel spending, cost-cutting tactics include taking fewer holidays (22 per cent), booking cheaper accommodation (21 per cent), eating out less on holiday (17 per cent) and travelling to destinations closer to home (16 per cent).
Among the age groups surveyed, those aged 18–24 were most likely to say the cost of living will have an impact on their travel plans while those aged 65 and over are least likely to say so.
Package holidays remain popular, with 61 per cent of people who took an overseas holiday opting for a package break, although this was down slightly from 63 per cent in 2022.
Among those who booked a package holiday, 42 per cent said it was because it was the best value option for the price.
City breaks more popular than beach holidays
British holidaymakers who travelled in the 12 months to August 2023 took slightly more city breaks (40 per cent) than beach getaways (34 per cent).
The end of travel restrictions following the Covid pandemic and increasing confidence to travel have affected holidaymakers’ choices, according to travel agents.
Ashley Quint, director of TravelTime World travel agency in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, told i: “As travel reopened [after Covid restrictions] generally people were looking for very simple, safe and easy beach breaks, of a slightly longer duration than they normally would to places such as the Caribbean, Canaries, Portugal and Indian Ocean.
“As we are getting back to a form of normality, we’re seeing former patterns and trends return – not just a city break, but combination city breaks either by visiting multiple cities on one trip”.
In 2019, Abta’s holiday report showed that 46 per cent planned to take a city break, and 41 per cent planned a beach holiday, while in 2022 these numbers were 32 per cent and 34 per cent respectively.
However, those who booked a package holiday were more likely to take a beach holiday (41 per cent), followed by a city break (34 per cent) and an all-inclusive (33 per cent).
Where we are travelling
Spain, long the favourite destination of UK travellers, came top (33 per cent) among those who took an overseas holiday in the past 12 months, followed by France (20 per cent) and Italy (16 per cent).
Turkey (nine per cent) and the Netherlands (five per cent) both moved into the top 10 visited countries.
Ms Brennan said that Turkey is proving popular among the package holiday market and can cater to all sorts of budgets.
The conflict looks set to affect travel to some popular holiday destinations with Egypt, Turkey and Morocco among the countries in which protests have taken place. Cruise lines have changes itineraries on cruises that feature the Middle East, including scrapping ports of call in Egypt and Jordan.
However, Abta members have not yet reported the war to have had an effect on booking habits.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive at Abta, said: “Over the past 12 months, household budgets have continued to be stretched by the rising cost of living while travel has been hit by a variety of challenges – including wildfires and an unprecedented air traffic control outage.
“Despite this, people’s commitment to their holidays, and their confidence in travel, remain strong. This is due in no small part to the hard work and tenacity of our members, who have worked tirelessly to find the best-value break for their customers’ budgets and supported them when things haven’t quite gone to plan.”