2023 travel round-up: The great escape!
Chalkmarks: Christmas in Madeira, Portugal, December 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel 2023!

THE travel year started on Sunshine Saturday in January – the most popular day of the year to book a holiday. By the end of the month it was the third Brexit anniversary. And what everyone needed was a holiday to… Europe and that’s what we did. In April the stat boffins predicted two million Britons had left this lil’ island on 10,218 flights. Some 500,000 holidaymakers had gone off to the Canary Islands, the BalearicsSpainTurkeyEgypt and Greece. But just when we thought it was safe to go away, it wasn’t. We faced the climate crisis. Spain, the UK’s favourite holiday destination, was on fire. Where we took holidays and how we crossed continents was getting more coverage. By July the front pages had images of the wildfires in Rhodes, Corfu and Sicily. People had died, homes and hotels burned down and holidaymakers were evacuated. There were also fires in France, Portugal, Croatia, and Algeria. Experts predicted holidaymakers would switch to cooler climes in northern Europe. Also in 2023, travel got spectacularly expensive. Somehow though, as the cost of living crisis raged, holidays were still getting booked up – and this pushed up inflation. In August UK air traffic control sparked out like an old computer on Bank Holiday Monday. We ended the year with forecast trends for 2024 which include Turkey knocking France off its pedestal as the second most popular European holiday destination. We can also expect to see more set-jetting based on travel to a film-set location and look out for more destination duped where we go to an alternative, hidden, hotspot that’s much cheaper than the Insta-crowded location. Expect to hear more about Albania.

Holiday anyone?

January: Experts said the travel industry was back in business and booming … There was a surge in interest in long-haul journeys to Australia and New Zealand since Covid restrictions eased … People were also booking trips to SpainFranceItaly and Greece… The cost of holidays skyrocketed – way above inflation … A room in a three-or-four star hotel last year would cost £100 but it’s £119 this year … The average holiday spend hit £3,104 … Heavy snow fell across the beaches in Ibiza … The European Union’s high-tech biometric screening system for Britons was postponed until autumn … Dubai was named the winner of Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice Awards 2023 … The cost of a passport increased to £82.50 from £75.50 … China reopened its borders ending three years of zero-Covid restrictions … Which? travel magazine listed Bulgaria number one for where the pound stretched furthest … The newest attraction along the northeast coast of England was a wandering Walrus called Thor!

February: It all ended in tears for Flybe again … Emirates told us it flew a Boeing 777 with one engine running on sustainable fuel for a test flight … Train ticket prices were overhauled … Then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman warned of a 10-week wait for passports … Forget KFC, Bourbon whiskey was booming in Kentucky … Chalkmarks was on the party island Ibiza … Bus lover Emily Turner inspired thousands when she travelled 400 miles from London to Edinburgh using only £2 local buses … Tate Britain reshuffled its art collection once again –  to feature female artists … Archeologists uncovered new structures at the ancient city of Chichén Itzá, Mexico, built more than 1,000 years ago … Here’s how to see Mayan history in a whole new lightWhich? research revealed that a week in Greece cost £200 more than last year … Wizz Air was named the worst short-haul airline by Which? … The world-famous Flying Scotsman turned 100!

March 2023: Post Office Travel Money revealed that summer fun in the sun cost less in Egypt, with £1 currently buying 36 (Egyptian pound) … Millions of pounds of holiday vouchers had gone unclaimed following hundreds of cancelled flights from three years ago at the start of the pandemic … Tripadvisor unveiled Baia do Sancho off the coast of Brazil as the world’s best beache according to travellers … King Charles’ crowning ceremony saw hotels in the capital cash in on the May Bank Holiday celebration … We heard Notre Dame would reopen in December 2024 … More than 50,000 Eurovision tickets sold out in 36 minutes… or 90 minutes, depending on where you read … Tate Liverpool was getting £29.7 million refurb as part of the Government’s Levelling Up policy … The Arctic blast brought much-needed snow across the peaks of Scotland’s five main ski resorts … Heathrow announced the most popular destinations were Dubai, New York and Madrid … The Oscar for the best tourist attraction on the planet went to the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest … And the worst? The Hollywood Walk of Fame … A new shuttle service opened between Luton train station and the airport … The Natural History Museum was named the top UK tourist attraction with 4.6m visitors … Holiday-hungry Britons were heading to cities and Rome was the favourite … A third of planes (37 per cent) were 15 minutes late last year … Amsterdam told boozy Britons to “Stay away” in a series of ads saying they wanted an end to “messy weekends” … Wales would introduce a holiday tax!

April: The Easter getaway started with 19-hour delays at Dover … Brexit was blamed … French border control was blamed … The small size of the port was blamed … The wet weather was blamed … Easter was blamed … Holidaymakers were blamed … And, coaches were blamed… London City Airport became the second in the UK – after Teeside – to install super scanners … Wizz Air took the crown for the longest delays at UK airports … The price of easyJet fights rocketed 31 per cent compared to 2022 … Boss Johan Lundgren said that was about £12, adding up to “a couple of coffees and a snack in an airport” … Holidaymakers were taking shorter holidays, down to seven days from 12 days … Belmond, the company that operates the Orient Express, would cancel its UK leg after 41 years due to the “enhanced border and passport controls” post Brexit … Coach company National Express said it was introducing 15 new routes and adding 130 new coaches to its fleet due to a boom in business … The famous Brecon Beacons National Park was renamed Bannau Brycheiniog … On Twitter questions were raised over the white judging panel and the white, mostly-male winners at the annual TravMedia Awards The Beefeaters at the Tower of London showed off their new uniforms that replace ER with CR … Bamburgh in Northumberland was named Britain’s number one beach.

May: Charles III was crowned king at Westminster Abbey … Chalkmarks was in the Dutch capital … The US dropped all coronavirus restrictions and allowed anyone who had not had a coronavirus jab into the country … Ryanair ordered 300 brand new Boeing 737 Max jets as it set its sights on flying holidaymakers to north Africa and the Middle East … Birmingham Airport was named the UK’s worst for its 30 minute flight delays … The Guardian reported the EU’s planned passport checks for Britons entering Europe “is not going to happen”, this year … The big family holiday was back – and that included trips with mum, dad, and even nana and grandad The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle was mocked on Twitter after it shared its new name: LeShuttle … National Express coach company was renamed Mobico … Center Parcs went up for sale for £5 billion … Trains were back to being as busy as pre-Covid times … Chalkmarks took a ferry to Santander …. Britons were taking two holidays this year according to Advantage Travel Partnership … The government announced it might stop free wifi on trains in cutbacks … (who would notice?) … It looked like the EU will be forced to accept English as a common language across its rail network despite the UK’s Brexit in 2020.

June: More than 2,000 security staff would go on strike at the UK’s biggest airport for 31 days this summer … Chalkmarks reported live from Levante beach in Benidorm … The consumer magazine Which? customer survey ranked Wizz Air as the worst short-haul airline … Scientists at the University of Reading confirmed that planes were experiencing more turbulence due to climate change … A mystery donor came forward with enough cash to keep open four visitor centres in Derbyshire’s Peak District … Gatwick turned 65 … Britons were spending up to £1,000 on staycations – compared to £513 last year … Post Office Travel Money found that 66 per cent of people felt ripped off once they’re away by unexpected charges for food, drinks, transport and day trips … Figures revealed holiday prices jumped 20 per cent …  In even badder news, prices were expected to stay high for 2024 … Taking longer holidays saves us money according to research by Which? … Glasgow was named one of the top, under-rated hidden gems for a UK staycation.

July: The anti-cyclone had landed in southern Europe … Temperatures across the Mediterranean were reaching 40C … The Italians named the heatwave Cerberus after Dante’s three-headed hound that guards hell … Tourists were collapsing at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece … The Metro read: “Global boiling” … The UN boss António Guterres said: “Climate change is here. It is terrifying” … Chalkmarks was in Italy, within inches of pizza at every turn … Holidaymakers were already changing their travel habits and heading to the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria … Puglia in Italy came under the spotlight this week for being the only region in Europe where the cost of dining out for UK holidaymakers had actually fallen – by 10.3 per cent … Amsterdam said they wanted to ban cruise ships from docking next to the main train station Centraal … Tesco Bank revealed travellers exchanged £308 for their holidays … The TFL one-day Travelcard (costing £15.20) that lets you use all the Tube and buses you like in a day looks as if it could be scrapped in January 2024 … The Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit, deep in the Highlands, reopened after a £1.5 million revamp. 

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August: The PM and MPs downed tools and took themselves off on holiday … The PM of Greece offered holidaymakers, who were evacuated by the wildfires in Rhodes in July, a free trip next spring or autumn … Travel insurance policies that offer extreme heat cover were on their way to protect holidaymakers from the disruption of heatwaves … Campers were allowed to pitch their tents on Dartmoor once again following a Court of Appeal ruling … Lonely Planet turned 50 … Tui reported the wildfires in Rhodes, in July, would cost it £21.5 million in compensation claims … In Hawaii, 55 people died as flames swept through the historic city of Lahaina … In Europe, Spain had its third heatwave of the summer with temperatures hitting 44C … A Guide to Dark Attractions highlighted 280 days-out in the UK linked to death and tragic events … Trips to Scotland by British tourists soared to a whopping 20.6 million … Nine in ten Britons spent more time worrying about their upcoming travels than enjoying them … 26 million bags of luggage had gone missing around the world – the highest it’s been for a decade … Travelodge reported its hotels in Edinburgh, Liverpool and Cardiff were sold out for Taylor Swift’s concerts next June … UK holidaymakers could get more for their pound in Vietnam, Kenya and South Africa.

September: The UK air traffic control system sparked out like an old computer on Bank Holiday Monday … Hundreds of flights were grounded on one of the busiest days of the travelling year as families returned home at the end of the summer holidays … Chalkmarks went to Albania to see “the Maldives … Airline add-ons such as charging extra to take luggage on board or paying for a seat had soared in the last ten years … Sunseekers on the island of Mallorca were hit by 75mph winds … British Airways, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic had the best websites for booking a flight while Ryanair, Jet2.com and Tui had the worst … An ice cream van beside the Houses of Parliament was charing £7 for a traditional 99 Flake so someone called the police … The Northern Lights and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland made up two of the top three entries of the must-see travel destinations for the coming year … From next year, day-trippers to Venice would be charged €5 (today that’s £4.29) … A big breakfast in the country you’ve just landed in can help counter the effects of jet lag, said science … Holidays went down from two weeks to 7.6 nights … According to a campaign group there were more hotels and Airbnbs in Venice than homes for residents … Old Tea Forests created 1,400 years ago in China were just one of the 42 sites that gained Unesco world heritage status … Unesco threatened to remove Stonehenge’s world heritage status unless the UK government halted plans to build a tunnel around the world famous monument in Wiltshire … Holiday giant Tui reported summer trips were up 5 per cent on last year.

October: Intrepid Travel predicted carbon passports were on their way by 2040 … It also forecast a switch from popular holiday hotspots such as Greece and Mallorca to countries in northern Europe specially Belgium, Slovenia and Poland … Blood-sucking bedbugs were filmed across Paris’ 17 arrondissements biting everyone from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame … There was £2 billion worth of foreign currency tucked away in our drawers, according to M&S Bank … The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin had been named Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the American 2023 World Travel Awards … Glastonbury tickets went up by £20 to £360 … Rishi Sunak announced he was pulling the plug on HS2’s northern leg for its soaring £100 billion budget … Indonesia opened its first high-speed railway with 217mph bullet trains … The state-of-the-art, 18,0000-seat arena, Las Vegas Sphere, opened just off the famous strip … Holidays, flights and cruise ships were cancelled at the start of the war in the Israel-Hamas conflict … Thousands of travellers missed their flights from Luton Airport after a huge fire broke out in a terminal car park … The historic city of Lahaina and the beaches of Maui reopened to tourism two months after the deadliest wildfires in US history … Holidays would be our priority, ahead of redecorating our homes, going out to eat or buying clothes n 2024 … Loch Ness, way up near Inverness, was the number one place everyone wanted to go to, but had never been in the UK … The EU’s post-Brexit £6 visa scheme for British travellers had been put back to spring 2025 … Caithness and Sutherland in the tippy-top far north of Scotland made it on to the must-see 10 regions Lonely Planet list.

November: Britons were choosing more city breaks than beach holidays … The cost of staying in a UK hotel had risen by 13 per cent this year … Which? rated Britannia Hotels the worst hotel chain for the 11th year in a row … ItalySpainFrancePortugal and Iceland were the top five countries we wanted to visit most next year … After that it was Turkey, Switzerland, Cyprus, Egypt and Morocco … Albania was the fastest growing tourist hotspot in Europe this summer according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer … Chalkmarks was on the streets of ManchesterReaders of Wanderlust magazine named Croatia their most desirable country in Europe, and Australia the most desirable country in the world at their annual travel awards … Ryanair announced ticket prices would go up over the winter months partly due to jet-fuel costs … Virgin Atlantic flew from London to New York in a world-first flight fuelled on 100 per cent “chip fat” oil aka sustainable aviation fuel (saf) … Turkey rose up the charts to replace France as the second most popular European holiday destination next year … Spain looked set to retain its number 1 slot … Britons were booking more staycations than trips abroad … One of the biggest growing trends of 2024 would be set-jetting based on travel to a film-set location … Also look out for more destination duped where we go to an alternative, hidden, hotspot that’s much cheaper than the Insta-crowded location … The cheapest Christmas market break was in Riga, Latvia … Glastonbury tickets sold out in less than an hour.

December: From June there would be no direct train service from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to London – … Chalkmarks flew to MadeiraAngry Ryanair passengers complained that once they had checked-in for their flight they were being asked to pay for a seat to access their digital boarding pass … Elsewhere, Ryanair and Wizz Air reported a rise in travellers in November … easyJet had put up orange letter boxes at Gatwick, Luton, Bristol and Manchester airports to post your letters to Santa … The French capital was named the Number One city on the planet … Dubai came second, Madrid third and Tokyo fourth … The modern delights of ancient Istanbul topped the list for growth in tourists with a 26 per cent increase, followed by London in second place (up 17%) and Dubai in third (up 18%) … To deal with overtourism, experienced in Venice, expect more crowd control in 2024 …  Britons going away for Christmas will have packed their mince pies and Christmas puds – and would still tune in to watch the King’s speech on the big day according to an easyJet survey … The top hotspots included the Caribbean, the USItalySpain and Cyprus … The Eiffel Tower ranked No1 for the world’s worst tourist attraction queue with 4,799 complaints online … Temperatures hit a record breaking 29.9C in Alicante … Back in the UK, the weather was cold, wet and windy. See you in 2024!

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Merry Christmas!

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