Almost half of this summer’s package holidays booked by UK holidaymakers are to destinations outside the eurozone, with Turkey the most popular destination, according to Thomas Cook’s annual holiday report.
The shift represents an increase of 9% in bookings to non-euro countries compared to the same time last year and reflects the continued uncertainty around Brexit and the weakness of sterling against the euro.
Overall bookings have also been slower, as cautious travellers bide their time. The tour operator found that the average holidaymaker currently visits the site 15 times before booking (up from 11 in 2017), equating to almost three hours.
However, despite a hesitant start to the year, only 8% of the 28,500 people surveyed for the report said that a foreign holiday was lower on their list of spending priorities for 2019.
“Britain may be living through unique times from a political perspective, however our desire to holiday abroad is clear,” said Will Waggot, Thomas Cook’s chief of tour operating. “The political turmoil is having an impact in other ways, revealing itself in a clear shift to non-EU countries and a growth in all-inclusive.”
Turkey, which offers cheaper five-star accommodation, food and drink than some of its European neighbours, has overtaken Greece and is second only to Spain in summer bookings. Flight-only bookings to Turkey with Thomas Cook Airlines are also up by 27%.
Tourism in the country continues to recover after the attempted coup in 2016 and the 2017 New Year terror attack caused visitor numbers to nosedive. Last year’s figures from Thomas Cook saw package holidays to Turkey up 84%, with rival operator TUI seeing a similar increase in bookings, ranking it third most popular European destination after Spain and Greece.
Travel money comparison site Compareholidaymoney.com reports that Turkey is the third most popular destination on its site for UK travellers, up 3% on last year.
Another beneficiary of travel outside the EU is Tunisia, where bookings of packages have doubled, following the sharp decline in numbers after the 2015 Sousse attacks, while flight-only bookings are up four-fold. Prior to the attacks, Tunisia was Thomas Cook’s third most popular year-round destination, and is now ranked seventh, with family bookings up 159% year-on-year.
The US is still the fourth most booked destination by UK holidaymakers, and family mini-adventures to Egypt and Morocco are also proving popular.