ABTA reveals possible shift away from peak travel months (and other key holiday trends)

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By Linsey McNeill
31/10/2023
Home » ABTA reveals possible shift away from peak travel months (and other key holiday trends)

ABTA’s latest Holiday Habits report shows almost as many people are now planning to travel next spring or autumn as during the summer.

And during the summer, more people (21%) are expecting to travel in May and June as in the peak months of July and August (17%).

If people’s intentions become reality, then May and June will be the most popular months for overseas holidays in 2024, said ABTA.

Its survey, of some 2,000 consumers, was taken during the last two weeks of August 2023, after last summer’s heatwaves in Europe.

However, when asked what was likely to have caused a potential shift in travel dates, ABTA said it was likely to be affordability.

It said that the survey results have been backed up by members, who have reported a post-pandemic trend towards out-of-season travel.

“Going out of season is going to be more cost-effective and there is a realisation that the weather is still good. It is not necessarily a climate issue,” said Head of Media and Communications Emma Brennan.

She pointed out that tour operators have also added more holidays outside the peak months. “A lot of our members are extending the season, particularly in places like Greece and Turkey, and they are increasing capacity in the shoulder season.”

ABTA Director of Communications Graeme Buck said the current market is ‘value-driven’ with people not necessarily looking for the cheapest but the best value holidays.

He added: “We think this reflects a trend towards all-year-round travel.”

ABTA’s Holiday Habits report, presented at this year’s Travel Convention taking place in Bodrum, Turkey also revealed that booking volumes should be back up to pre-COVID levels in 2024.

Some 64% of respondents said they plan to take an overseas holiday next year (compared to 52% this year) which, if their intentions are fulfilled, will bring booking volumes back up to 2019 levels.

How much will people spend on their 2024 holiday?

Just over half – 51% – say they will spend the same as last year but 28% say they intend to spend more.

While some people expect their holiday cost to have gone up, ABTA said the main reason people gave for an increase in spend was they plan to travel more.  “Holidays are still a spend priority,” said Emma.

However, more than one in five people said they will spend less, mainly due to higher energy bills plus rising mortgages and rents.

Nevertheless, Graeme said the survey showed that even people facing a squeeze on their finances still intend to travel. “By golly, they are going to go on holiday and find a way to do it,” he added.

Where are people going on holiday?

Spain remained by far the most popular destination in 2023, accounting for a third of all trips, but Turkey grew in popularity, moving up to sixth place last year.

Emma said Turkey was particularly popular among package holidaymakers. “More and more of our members have been introducing holidays there,” she added.

France accounted for a fifth of holidays booked last year, followed by Italy (16%) the US (15%) and Greece (12%).

For next year, Japan has entered the top 10 most desired destinations, which ABTA has put down to pent up demand for the country, which remained locked down longer than most. Some 4% of respondents said they planned to travel to Japan in 2024.

What types of holiday are people booking?

City breaks leapfrogged beaches as the most popular type of holiday last year, with 40% visiting a city versus 34% going to the beach, but it’s not the first time they’ve been the most sought-after, according to ABTA.  However, it said its members had seen a shift away from cities immediately post-pandemic, but last year there was a resurgence in popularity.

ABTA members have also seen an increase in multi-centres, which Emma said was an indication people are ‘starting to work their way through their bucket list’.

A third of all packages booked last year were all-inclusives, which ABTA said were increasingly popular due to the ‘squeeze’ on people’s finances. “People are turning to all-inclusive to manage their budgets,” added Emma. Overall, all-inclusives accounted for 18% of holidays booked last year, up from 15% the previous year.

What about cruises?

Some 8% of customers booked a cruise last year and 53% of those plan to cruise again in the next 12 months. ABTA said there is a ‘strong interest’ in cruising from the UK, with 28% booking a cruise around the UK last year and 26% booking a no-fly option.

“More and more people are looking at no-fly cruises,” said Emma. “There has been quite a big increase in the options from the UK.”

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