The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) estimates a record 2.3 million British holidaymakers are set to leave the country this weekend in a scramble for the sun. Relentlessly cold temperatures here in the UK and a late Easter has fuelled demand for warmer destinations and also means that many of the Mediterranean resorts will be open, even though the summer season is not quite here.
Spain is the outright favourite country for this weekend, with the Canary Islands - and Tenerife in particular - the most popular. The weather here promises to be sensational, and temperatures should firmly remain in the 20s. Mallorca is also very popular, followed by the Costas - particularly del Sol and Blanca. Many people will also be heading over to Spain to visit their holiday homes this Easter.
Cyprus has regained its popularity this year, while Portugal, particularly the Algarve is next followed by Tunisia, Egypt and Florida.
The Caribbean is also great in April and Barbados, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are also popular this Easter, but before the European beach season really gets into full swing, now is also a peak time for city breaks and the top five this year will be Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Venice.
This year has also seen numbers to the Holy Land rise to pre-2000 levels, and hotels are booked out for the Easter and Passover, which coincide this year.
The mass exodus starts tomorrow, with many of the airports reporting Thursday as their busiest day.
Over one million passengers alone will be leaving the country through BAA airports this Easter, while from the South East just under half a million will leave from Heathrow, approximately 262,000 will leave from Gatwick, 172,350 from Stansted and 60,000 will depart from Luton. A further 12,000 will depart from Southampton.
From Scotland over 125,000 will be leaving via the airports with 51,000 leaving from Glasgow, 56,800 from Edinburgh and 17,800 from Aberdeen, while over 26,000 will be leaving from Belfast.
From the north and the Midlands, 110,000 will leave from Manchester, 37,500 from Newcastle 14,000 from Leeds Bradford, 45,000 from Birmingham and 26,000 from Nottingham, East Midlands Airport.
Other regional airports and ferry terminals will also be extremely busy over the weekend and at least another 80,000 will be leaving by Eurostar.
Many more will also be making the most of the weekend by venturing closer to home and UK beach resorts and countryside will also be busy. ABTA Members selling the UK have reported that bookings have been up substantially over the last few weeks.
“Although Easter is always a busy time of year for the travel industry,” said Martin Wellings, ABTA President, “there seems to be a real pent up demand this year, that we’ve been able to fulfil. It promises to be a very busy weekend.”