In an age where people jet off around the world to far flung destinations and the parallel popularity of the British ‘staycation’, the idea of a week in the sun with a fixed price for flight and accommodation seems a thing of the past.
But package holidays are making a comeback, according to newly released figures by travel association Abta. 48% of Brits booked such a trip in 2012, compared with 42% in 2011 and 37% in 2010.
While the popularity of package holidays have diminished since 2000 when the figure was 56%, this new research is particularly encouraging for the travel industry.
So why the increased popularity?
Abta has pushed the fact that package holidays are increasingly taken by those in the aged 35 to 44 (with 51% in this group picking one). In other words, families with young children who are looking carefully at how they budget see this form of travel as cost effective.
In reality then little has changed. From the late 1950s and 1960s this cheap form of holidaying gave many Brits the ability to travel abroad for the first time. From the establishment of Euravia, one of the first charter airlines, which commenced flights from Manchester Airport in 1961 and Luton Airport in 1962, the package holiday had mushroomed by the 1970s.
The Spanish Costas, in particular, were so popular with Brits that resorts came to resemble the culture that many enjoyed back at home – English pubs and belt-busting all day breakfasts.
There were some high profile collapses, like Court Line (operating as Horizon and Clarksons) in 1974 when some 50,000 tourists were stranded overseas and another 100,000 lost deposits, but the package holiday marched on.
But then in the last decade there has been the challenge of budget airlines, like Easyjet and Ryanair. People didn’t stop travelling overseas, but many opted for the DIY approach – booking flights and accommodation separately. As a result, big operators like Thomson and First Choice (part of TUI) and Thomas Cook have really struggled.
The latest Abta figures show that the DIY way of booking is in decline – as people opt for the financial security of the package holiday in the wake of a number of holiday and flight companies going bust in recent years.
Combined with this, the industry has had to change. Holidaymakers will no longer accept a week in a tatty apartment with mouldy food served up. Today, a package holiday could be anything from a week in a luxury spa resort to a stylish river boat cruise. Breaks are also offered for people on all level of budgets – if you travel out of school holidays you can get real bargains if you book last minute.
The way that we holidayed all those years ago has been re-packaged up – package holidays are back.