Springing into travel action

You’d be hard pressed to find a tour operator out there that isn’t feeling the chill of the global downturn. But with the daffodils in bloom and Easter just round the corner, spring fever is restoring some much-needed cheer to the travel industry.

This season though sees a shift in holiday booking patterns. The strength of the Euro is leading to a slump in bookings across the Eurozone destinations. British holidaymakers, for example, are finding prices up to three times higher in Eurozone cities than those outside.In an analysis of the price of holiday essentials in a dozen European cities, the UK’s Post Office found that items ranging from accommodation to hotel rooms in Budapest, Warsaw and Prague cost about a third of those in cities such as Athens, Paris and Rome.

Whilst Sterling has fallen 17 percent against the Euro over the past 12 months, it has risen by more than 10 percent against the Polish Zloty and other East European currencies.

Midhaul destinations Turkey and Egypt are also benefiting from the high cost of the Eurozone. And with nights balmy even in April, tour operators are reporting a flurry of bookings for this Easter break.


(Above: Zermatt’s altitude makes it ideal for a late season ski break)

Whilst unveiling its annual results, TUI reported surges in bookings to Egypt and Turkey, up 18 and 8 percent respectively.

At the other end of the temperature scale, ski resorts are reveling in one of the best seasons on record, and taking late booking for holidays when usually they would be winding up for summer.

At the beginning of the year, the flight to value was taking its toll badly on the luxury end of the ski industry. Thankfully though, mother nature has helped deliver some sorely needed bookings.

It has also been snowing again across much of the Alps - and with more on the way this Easter promises to be the best in living memory. Even Austria, where many low-lying resorts traditionally close late season, is having unprecedented snowfalls. France and Switzerland are also enjoying glorious conditions and a flurry of late booking activity.

(Above: the Savoy, Sharm El Sheikh, is opening an incredible new entertainment experience, Soho Square)

Travel marketeers have been pushing hard to offer last-minute Easter breaks that offer attractive prices while maintaining margins. BTN has scoured the web for some of the best packages on offer.

Jewel of Eastern Europe

With wonderful sightseeing, opera, restaurants and nightlife, Prague is Eastern Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Largely undamaged by the ravages of WWII, its cityscape offers a smorgasbord of stunning architecture. The Prague Easter markets run daily till 19 April 2009 at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Expedia.com is offering deals to Prague this Easter for four nights from £282 (based on 9 - 13 April).

Ancient world

April is a great month to visit Egypt - warm yet not oppressive. Watching the sunset over one of the most beautiful stretches of the Nile at Aswan or revelling in life and death at the tombs and funerary temples of some of Egypt’s greatest kings in Luxor remain tourist must-dos come boom or bust. Travel Talk is offering nine-day tour for £149 excluding flights. Alternatively head to Sharm El Sheikh and staying at the Savoy, with its range of accommodation to suit all budgets, as well as an incredible new shopping and entertainment complex, Soho Square, complete with ice rink and ice bar in the middle of the desert.

(Above: Prague also makes for a great weekend away, especially in current climate)

Turkish delights

Istanbul is hot. And we’re not talking about the weather. These days, there are more happening restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs around town than there are exquisite Ottoman mosques. The city’s over-abundance of important historic buildings and exciting new art galleries and museums provides visitors with more than enough to see during the day, but it’s at night that the place swings into high-velocity, mega-stylish action. In Istanbul, you can discover the remains of many ancient civilizations in harmony with Turkish culture. Expedia.com has four nights from £420 over the Easter weekend.

Nordic nights

Find yourself on the slopes in sunny conditions with an end of the season bargain to Geilo, Norway. Fasttrackski.com is offering seven nights departing Heathrow on 5 April for just £226 per person. Geilo is one of Scandinavia’s classic ski resorts. The village centre has an Alpine feel, unusual in Norway, thanks to the concentration of traditional hotels, restaurants, pubs and shops.

Eastern promise

Four nights at the 5-star Hyatt Regency Dubai with return flights from London Heathrow is available from £559 per person for departures on 11 April 2009 with Netflights.com. From the new, innovative development projects to the super-deluxe hotels that grace the beaches, city and desert, the thrilling sports and activities to the massive malls with tax-free boutiques, this city of gold constantly buzzes with fun ideas to make your Easter break memorable.

(Above: Italy’s Furore Inn - the perfect place to take time out)

The art of living

Okay, the Eurozone is dear, but let us not forget that life, ultimately, is for living, and nowhere have they honed the art of living better than the Furore Inn Resort on the Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast. Perched on a hillside between Amalfi and Postiano, this beyond-luxurious boutique hotel is all about fine food, fine ambience and fine hospitality amid a spectacular setting. You feel like you have the entire resort to yourself, especially by lazing in its infinity pool and gazing out across the glittering Med. Despite its luxury tag, the resort is offering some excellent early-season deals, including over Easter. Two night stays, including Easter dinner, for €640 for a double.