Holiday bookings and prices soar as travellers lock in early-bird deals
Chalkmarks: PR photo Earth Lodge Day Bar, South Africa

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 27th January 2023

This year we need a plan. We all do. This year, travel can’t be last minute. Travel experts are all saying the same thing: We’ve got to book in advance. It’s unlikely we’ll get a good deal on a flight if we wait. This could be the best travel advice for 2023. After the pandemic, ongoing strikes and staff shortages, we shouldn’t be surprised really. Demand is high. We need to get with the programme. Spend less, travel more is the motto. Go, go, go. Which? magazine recommends Portugal as a cost saving destination. On our ed top pick is Bulgaria for its beaches, history, rose oil, sushi in Sofia, and the stunning Rila Lakes! This week travel news made the front pages, which we round up here so you don’t miss a thing. 

De-iced!

Listen up: Last week we reported that holiday bookings were up on this time last year – and this week the story’s the same. Advantage Travel Partnership Boss Julia Lo Bue-Said told the Daily Telegraph that bookings were close to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. She also talked about a surge in interest in long-haul journeys to Australia and New Zealand since Covid restrictions eased. 

The sky’s the limit: In the same way Trailfinders says its broken its all-time record sales a number of times this year!

Breaking the internet: Travel agents are heaving with trade association Abta reporting they are expecting a bumper 2023 – after 61 per cent of people said they planned an overseas trip this year and 31 per cent planned to book early. Asked where people are booking? In Europe, they said, the top destinations are Spain, France, Italy and Greece.

Speaking of Which? The cost of holidays is also skyrocketing – way above inflation, currently over 10 per cent – for flights, hotels and packages. An investigation by Which?, the consumer champions, found the price of a package holiday to Spain, Turkey and Italy had jumped by 20 per cent or more since last summer. A trip to Greece costs 30 per cent more, or £200 . Flights are up 51 per cent on average, and hotels too.

How to bag a bargain: That is the question. easyJet Holidays says cost pressures are coming from all directions – fuel prices, staffing costs – and sooner or later they will reach the holidaymaker. Hotels facing food and energy price rises, are passing these costs on. A room in a three-or-four star hotel last year would cost £100 but it’s £119 this year. Which? advises to book early, and, as soon as possible. “Prices are unlikely to come down and may continue to rise,” they warn. 

Luckily: Which? also found the top holidays fixes that won’t break the bank. Spain is still cheap, only 20 per cent more expensive than last summer, and Portugal too where prices have risen by just 7 per cent.

Lovely Lisbon: Holding our pint-sized cocktails high, we carefully make our way on to the cobbles where the night is getting well and truly underway. There are hundreds of revellers who have crowded into a nook of Lisbon to let their hair down and get their groove on. Yet despite the never-ending number of bars in the heart of Portugal’s capital city, the real party is in the street…down the road and around the corner. The alfresco scene just goes on and on. Nobody really shouts about this westernmost corner of Europe compared to the Algarve known for its beaches and energetic party scene.  But Lisbon boasts a year-round Mediterranean climate, has its own stunning coastline and offers a nightlife that can be surprisingly sweaty, noisy and crowded. Click here for the full experience.

Talk about an ice view: In other news this week, heavy snow fell across Ibiza, covering its beaches in fluffy white stuff. With its Med climate and temperatures that reach into the 30Cs in the summer, the mercury on the party island surprisingly fell to -2C. Goggles and salopettes at the ready! The average temperature is usually 15C. MailOnline had the stunning pictures to prove it. And over here, the icy conditions grounded more than 80 flights at Heathrow, which recorded its coldest night since December 2010 as temperatures dropped to -8C. LBC had the story.

Hot topics: To brighten up these winter days Which? was back and recommends six holiday hotspots for February. Grab a pen! They are Tenerife (18°C), Sardinia (15°C), the late-Queen’s fave Malta (15°C), Maldives (31°C), Oman (26°C), Grenada (29°C).

Y(ees): Mayhem at airports and ports has been averted this summer. Use the blowing the party horn emoji! This delay made the front page of the Daily Telegraph on Saturday. The European Union’s high-tech biometric screening system for Britons (and all non-EU passengers) was due to start in May but it’s been postponed. Known as the Entry/Exit System (EES), it was feared it would create huge queues at borders, especially at Dover, when it was rolled out. This is because every non-EU passenger will need to have their photo and four sets of fingerprints taken on arrival. Look at Twitter this week to gauge reaction to the IT system postponement – there was huge relief. Olivier Jankovec, director-general of the European region of Airports Council International, tweeted “reason & pragmatism have prevailed”. For now, we can keep showing our passports, which get stamped on arrival. ESS is expected sometime this autumn.

February 1: On Wednesday train drivers from the two unions Aslef and RMT are taking part in industrial action. This is the day the Trade Union Congress has marked as national ‘protect the right to strike’ day, with coordinated walkouts across industries including teaching and civil service. Train drivers will strike again on Friday 3rd February. Here’s the news when it broke on Sky. Also, out on the picket lines are Border Force. The government warns to expect long queues at airports and ports, especially Dover. Travel Weekly has the details.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Tourist trap: Peru’s biggest tourist attraction Machu Picchu has been closed indefinitely after tourists were stranded high in the Andes for the second time in as many months. Protests across the country have seen the rail tracks to the famous Incan city blocked with huge rocks. Demonstrations began in December when then-president Pedro Castillo was ousted and the first woman President Dina Boluarte took power. Hundreds of visitors who were stuck in the Lost City last weekend have now been rescued. The government says those with tickets can change their dates or get a refund. The BBC has the story.

Auschwitz: Today is Holocaust Memorial Day in remembrance of the victims of the holocaust. Auschwitz, the concentration camp, just outside Krakow in Poland, where 1.1 million innocent people died, has become a huge tourist draw. Should we be worried? Has it turned into any other tourist attraction? Here’s what happened on our journey to Auschwitz.

Neighbourhood watch: The Ancient Yemenite Kingdom of Saba, in Yemen, and the Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli, Lebanon, are two places many will not have heard of before. But this week both made Unesco’s list of World Heritage Sites in danger – triggering emergency access to financial help for preservation. The Yemeni kingdom of Saba, which includes seven temples and ruins, have become caught up in the civil war between the Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement and the Saudi-led coalition – backed by the US, UK, and France. The Rachid Karami International Fair, built in the 1960s, has been listed for protection over fears it could be redeveloped. 

Coming to London: King Charles III Coronation. All the exciting details were revealed this week. The once-in-a-lifetime event will include marching bands, lit up landmarks, street parties, a concert (classical, choirs and pop) and a wave from Buckingham Palace. But who will be on the balcony? The Royal Family tweeted the full three-day celebrations. So, what are you doing on Saturday 6th May? Everyone is welcome, the invite says!

We luv London: London is really a city within a city….within a city. Within the old Roman City Walls you’ll find the Barbican, Leadenhall Market and St Paul’s. The Tower of London didn’t come along until a thousand years after the Romans arrived in 43. It was built outside the City Wall in 1078, which was around the same time that London became the nation’s capital. Modern additions to the City include a handful of skyscrapers all located around Bishopsgate, including the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie, the Scalpel and the Cheesegrater. The latest, is known by its address, TwentyTwo, and was completed in 2020. Read all about what you should know about London here

This time last year: We’re off, we reported. It was one of the longest weeks in politics as we awaited a v.important announcement…and it finally came. No more travel tests were required to enter the UK, no more amber or red travel lists, no more self-isolation, and no more quarantine hotels. Yes, the government scrapped all travel restrictions. Elsewhere ITV News reported that that Essex County Council was spending £300,000 to shed its TV Towie reputation and give itself a makeover. Forget Brentwood, this ad campaign will focus on Essex’s 350-mile coastline. Did it work? Answers on a Tweet please babes. Literally!

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