ABTA`s Holiday Trends for 2003

27th Jan 2003

The travel industry is very optimistic for 2003, 2002 has been a very unusual year for the travel industry. The combined events of 11 September 2001 and a slowing down of the global economy meant slightly fewer package holidays were sold, but indications of early sales for summer 2003 means that growth is expected to resume in 2003.

The total number of overseas holidays taken in 2002 will exceed 38 million, of which at least 21 million will be package holidays.

The ICC Cricket World Cup in South Africa in February and March and the Rugby World Cup in October and November in Australia will boost the profiles of these already very attractive long-haul destinations.


New Popular Destinations for 2003 are predicted to be:




Eastern Europe





Although 71% of package holidaymakers take a summer sun or beach holiday, the relative cost of going abroad has come down, and so we are becoming more demanding and adventurous. Frequently other types of holiday are being taken. Activity holidays, for example, which includes cycling, skiing and water sports, now make up 8 per cent of package holidays.
LONG HAUL HOLIDAYS - Long haul holidays have remained as popular in 2002 as they have ever been. Sales of round the world tickets have increased and because destinations such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Thailand have not been affected by the recent terrorist problems, their popularity has been maintained. Despite this, the US remains the number one long haul destination, while Australia is perceived by many to be ‘the dream destination’.

Numbers to Mexico and to the Caribbean have risen dramatically in recent years, reflecting the increased choice in charter flights, competitive prices and the British holidaymaker taking advantage of good value all-inclusive resorts.

The Far East is popular, not only with independent travellers, but also with those on inclusive tours. Thailand is a favourite with British holidaymakers, as are Malaysia, Singapore and, increasingly, Vietnam. Kenya continues to attract those looking for a safari experience while South Africa is proving popular as a winter sun destination.

2002 has been a tough year for Dubai and the Emirates, both of which have recently invested a great deal in hotels and been attracting more visitors from Britain. Dubai has become a particular favourite for those looking for fine beaches and duty-free shopping, but growth has already started to resume.


CRUISING - The cruise market in Britain has grown exponentially in the last few years to become second only to the United States. Nearly 800,000 passengers are carried a year now and 2003 will see the results of the travel industry’s efforts to widen the market still further to include families and younger passengers. The Caribbean and the Mediterranean are already firm favourites for those flying to their holiday destination to join their cruise. Fly-cruises to colder climes have also recently risen in popularity and particularly appeal to seasoned travellers who want to experience something completely different. For these clients, wildlife is the attraction and sightings of polar bears, penguins, whales and other rare species are often promised. Scandinavia and Alaska have already become popular and with widespread coverage of the anniversary of Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions, Antarctica has become the new cutting edge destination. River cruising in Europe allows the opportunity to travel from city to city and leisurely view the scenery. Germany leads the market here, and this type of sight seeing particularly appeals to the more mature market.



SHORT BREAKS - Short breaks have increased rapidly over the last few years and by the end of 2002 5.6 million short break holidays will have been taken for the year. They have also increased their market share. In 1997 11.7 per cent of all holidays were short breaks, whereas now 15 per cent of holidays will be short break holidays and this growth looks likely to increase further in the coming years. The reasons for rapid growth in this sector are numerous. The pattern of holiday taking has changed with people taking more than one short break a year rather than just one two week break in the summer. The increase in numbers of couples with no children has also contributed to this trend as has the number of airlines who offer short-haul, non-flexible (but very cheap) flights to European cities.

Paris, Amsterdam, Bruges and Rome were this year’s top four destinations, and while Paris lost some ground to other French cities such as Marseilles, Bruges became more popular aided by the award of European City of Culture. But increasingly Eastern European destinations have seen a surge in demand. Prague for instance saw a 121 per cent increase in popularity before the floods in August 2002, while Warsaw, Moscow and St Petersburg are all emerging as attractive destinations along with Cairo and Dubai. Although New York lost out on a lot of visitors early in 2002, it gained ground and is set to recover in 2003.


WINTER HOLIDAYS - Snowsports play a vital part in the winter holiday market. Around 1.5 million people take a skiing holiday each year, many now opting to try snowboarding as well. The most popular destinations for skiing are resorts in France, Austria and Italy. Many people are choosing to travel further afield taking advantage of the strong pound and availability of charter flights, Canada and the United States have seen a massive rise in popularity over the past 10 years.


The most popular wintersun destinations are Tenerife and the other Canary Islands, but the north African countries of Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt do offer good value alternatives, while the Caribbean, Florida, Mexico, Australia and South Africa are all beginning to offer more affordable winter sun experiences.

NO-FRILLS AIRLINES - In 2002 the traditional airlines tackled the challenge of the no-frills airlines head on. British Airways launched Future Size and Shape, which meant that customers could book lower cost flights from its new website. Meanwhile BMI launched bmibaby, (which has now taken over all BMI routes out of East Midlands airport); Mytravel launched MyTravelLite from Birmingham airport and British European launched Flybe.


With expansion of the no-frills airlines has come increased numbers of complaints as customers realise that they do not receive the same level of customer service from budget airlines. However, there are no signs that no-frills airlines will stop growing in 2003 especially because a European city break is not the luxury item it used to be. Cities such as Bologna and Naples in Italy, Copenhagen in Denmark, Zurich in Switzerland, Bordeaux and Lyon in France and Berlin in Germany are all on offer and the range is expanding.


WEDDINGS AND HONEYMOONS - Getting married in an exotic, yet romantic setting at a fraction of the price of a UK wedding is all that is needed to persuade 30,000 couples a year to get married abroad. This market again looks healthy for 2003. The number of people attending wedding parties overseas has also grown to about six and Mediterranean destinations such as Cyprus and Greece, have also risen in popularity. The top destinations for weddings abroad are the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Florida.


Long haul destinations for honeymoons remain enticing with Mauritius, Seychelles, the Greek Islands, Thailand, Australia, the Caribbean and the Bahamas proving to be favourites.


SPA HOLIDAYS - Spa holidays are becoming increasingly popular. One specialist ABTA member reported a 27% growth in 2001 and a 20% growth in 2002. Essentially spa resorts and hotels have been developed around natural phenomena such as volcanic or mineral springs, but man-made spas which focus on treatments have also been experiencing a rise in demand. Growth in the area has been for the 18-60 year olds who buy treatments rather than the traditional spa client who would be over 60, with non-specific aches and pains or with specific health complaints.


People go for all kinds of reasons including pampering, de-stressing, counselling, detoxing, weight loss or just to relax while typical activities and treatments include aromatherapy, fangotherapy (mud-application therapy) homeopathy and yoga. Spas can be found all over the world, with the Far East, the Caribbean and Europe coming out top.




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