Winter weather prompts surge in holiday bookings

There has been a surge in people looking to book a holiday in the sun after the bitterly cold last few weeks, according to travel companies.

The Spanish islands, Mexico, Egypt and Thailand have all seen a spike in interest from British holidaymakers looking for a last-minute Christmas break or a January holiday away from the sub-zero temperatures that many fear will continue to hit Britain.

The more favourable euro exchange rate and some cutting of prices has also encouraged people to look abroad.

The Met Office has already confirmed that so far this month is the coldest December since at least 1981. Its forecasters have given warning that there may be a return to very cold conditions, with the risk of further snowfall and widespread icy conditions.

Travelsupermarket, a travel booking website, said that in the last few weeks searches for foreign holidays during the Christmas and New Year period on its website had increased by 35 per cent on a year ago.

The Co-Operative Travel said Christmas and New Year bookings for some areas in Spain, driven by interest in Lanzarote and Tenerife, had increased by 12 per cent compared with last year. Bookings to Fuerteventura were up 12 per cent year on year and Tenerife by 10 per cent.

Many of the Spanish coastal resorts, after a torrid year, have cut their prices, with family hotels offering a package deal for a week for four people for as little as £388.

Despite the recent shark attacks, bookings to Sharm El Sheikh this winter are also up nine per cent year on year as the guaranteed sunshine lures those shivering in the UK snow.

Christian Cull, at Thomson and First Choice holidays, said: “One of the main reasons holidaymakers choose to go abroad is to escape the Great British Weather. The cold snap in the UK has seen an increase in visits to our retail shops and web sites as people seek to escape the doom and gloom for warmer climes.

“One trend we have noticed is a rise in demand for three or four night ‘flexible duration’ holidays; although people don’t have much time to play with in the run up to Christmas, they are looking to enjoy some great value winter sun. With the Met Office predicting even more cold weather to come, we’re anticipating a rush to our retail shops in January as even more customers look to book some late winter sun or, in most cases, give themselves something to look forward to by booking their main summer holiday.”

Travel experts warned that the interest in warmer destinations was not spread evenly around the globe and that not all potential holidaymakers were encouraged by the weather to book.

Charlotte Cumming at directline holidays warned that many potential holiday makers had been put off booking by the severe snow at the start of December, when flights out of Britain were severely affected with Gatwick closed for two days, pointing out that those of a nervous disposition didn’t want to risk being stranded at the airport by a fresh bout of snow.

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