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Published on Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ABTA 2012: Holidaymakers take fewer trips but more packages

UK consumers are taking fewer holidays but they are increasingly likely to travel on a package booked via a high street travel agency, according to ABTA's latest Consumer Trends Survey unveiled at the Travel Convention in Istanbul.

It showed that people took an average of 3.51 holidays this year, 48% of which were packages compared with 42% in 2011. According to the survey, 27% of holidays were booked on the high street compared with 25% in 2011. Conversely, the number of DIY bookings shrank from 43% in 2011 to 39% this year.

"The internet is getting confusing and people can't work out when they book online if their holiday is financially protected or not," said travel agent Daniel Broccoli of Peterborough-based Britaly Travel. "This is definitely one of the reasons people are coming back to book in high street agents, which is something we have seen over the past 12 months, thank God!"

ABTA's survey, conducted by Arkenford Ltd, revealed that one in five independent travellers spent at least seven hours researching destinations and the same amount of time to check prices of flights, plus a further seven hours checking the cost of accommodation.

It claimed it could take the equivalent of three working days to research and book one holiday, yet the research revealed only half of those questioned believed booking with a travel agent would save them time.

The survey also found women and younger travellers aged 15 to 34 were the most likely to value the services of a travel agent, which is good news for the trade as this age group took one holiday a year more than the national average, despite being the most concerned about job security and money.

The third annual survey, which covered a 12-month period up to 2012, found that the trend towards package holidays was particularly strong amongst the "squeezed middle" as 51% of 35 to 44 years olds said they had booked a package in 2012 compared with just 36% in 2011.

The drift back to the high street seemed to be driven more by cost and ease of booking than a desire for financial protection as slightly fewer customers rated this as their primary concern this year, whereas 60% said they had changed when they booked in order to get the best price.

34% of consumers booked their holiday further in advance this year and a quarter booked closer to departure.

Last year, the average number of holidays taken was slightly higher at 3.82, although in 2010 it was just 3.2. Younger travellers bucked the trend with those aged 15 to 24 taking more breaks this year than in 2011, although trips were generally shorter. 14% said they had travelled to a music festival.

Domestic packages jumped in popularity, with nearly a quarter of holidaymakers choosing to book a package compared with just12% in 2011. DIY holidays fell slightly from 36% of the market to 34%.

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