Where are we all booking holidays to after Sunshine Saturday?

It was dubbed Sunshine Saturday: 7 January, the hallowed date on which the UK travel industry geared up for what was expected to be the biggest day for bookings since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

And, in some quarters, it didn’t disappoint. EasyJet Holidays reported its strongest sales day since 2019; Responsible Travel saw a 21 per cent increase in bookings compared to pre-Covid figures. Spurred on by a grey, rainy January, travel restrictions being dropped for the foreseeable in the vast majority of countries across the globe, and pent-up demand after three years in which many Brits didn’t manage to secure a getaway, prospective holidaymakers booked in their droves.

Some of them even jumped the gun on the projected “most popular” bookings day – Macs Adventure, a UK tour operator offering self-guided trips, reported its biggest sales day in its 20-year history on Friday 6 January.

But which destinations are proving most popular for itchy-footed Brits?

For Tui, the UK’s biggest tour operator, the answer was Spain, Greece and Turkey. Web search data from 7 January also shows that Cape Verde was the beach destination that saw the biggest surge in interest, while Dubai and Amsterdam were top for city destinations; all of their search stats were significantly up over the weekend.

EasyJet Holidays, meanwhile, saw Spanish islands leading the pack, with Tenerife, Palma and Lanzarote the most popular beach destinations booked. Amsterdam, Paris and Iceland were the most-booked city break destinations. All-inclusive getaways were customers’ holiday of choice, accounting for more than 50 per cent of beach breaks. And when it came to timing, June was the busiest month for beach bookings, while March was the leading month for urban escapes. Compared to 2022, Cyprus saw the biggest jump in bookings.

“We know that as January sets in people like to book a holiday to look forward to, so we’re really excited to have seen our best sales day since we launched our business back in 2019,” said Garry Wilson, easyJet holidays CEO.

“With the cost of living still very much at the top of the agenda, what we’re seeing is that people are still prioritising holidays. We expect demand will continue with great value playing a more key role than ever, so we’re absolutely committed to continuing to offer brilliant holidays at unbeatable prices.”

The Canary and Balearic Islands also ruled the roost in terms of Jet2 Holidays’ bookings on Sunshine Saturday, along with Turkey, the Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol, Algarve, and Greek islands such as Crete, Rhodes and Zante.

Eco-tour operator Responsible Travel’s most popular destinations were Croatia, Spain and Egypt; according to Macs Travel, its top 10 selling routes last week were the West Highland Way, the Tour du Mont Blanc in Comfort, the Coast to Coast Walk, Camino Frances, Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites, the Great Glen Way, the Camino Portugues Coastal Way, Hadrian’s Wall Path, the Dales Way and the Highlights of New Zealand.

Neil Lapping, the founder of Macs Adventure, said: “It’s exciting to see that demand for our self-guided holidays is at its highest ever with fantastic sales last Friday. Our classic inn-to-inn, iconic walking routes such as The West Highland Way, the Tour de Mont Blanc, the Alta Via and Camino de Santiago are all reporting record sales.”

Tailormade long haul specialist Travelbag also reported a “very positive start to the new year”, with enquiry volumes on par with pre-pandemic numbers, and the average value of bookings exceeding that of pre-pandemic levels. Asia is proving particularly popular, accounting for 30 per cent of all enquiries by phone and 43 per cent of all requested web quotes; Thailand is the number one destination overall. Customers were keen for a pre-spring escape, with 37 per cent of sales taken over the weekend for travel before the end of March 2023. Plus multi-centre holidays are on the up.

After a rocky three years, it looks like the future may finally be looking up for the UK travel industry.

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