Keep calm and carry on travelling: Britons are booking holidays in record numbers despite the cost-of-living crisis!
Chalkmarks: Old Town, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 24th March 2023

Flight prices set to rise by 15 per cent, train strikes called off and hungry-holiday Brits are heading to Rome! Your fact-packed, must-read weekly travel round-up…

Eating cake intentionally and recklessly!

Coming up: Flight prices look set to rise by 15 per cent this summer due to record holiday bookings. This could add around £25 to the price of a plane ticket. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary warned that huge demand and few seats on sale, was keeping prices high. He said: “Look at people’s spending habits: try and get a hotel room or restaurant booking; a flight or going anywhere across Europe at the moment. People are spending. All this fuel poverty, inflation and [people not having enough] income – I see no evidence of people not spending at all. And that is not confined to the UK, [it is] all over Europe.”

Striking a deal: The RMT union has suspended next week’s rail walkouts. Some 20,000 staff were due to strike next Thursday and Saturday. So far there have been 18 strikes but it looks hopeful they could soon be over with pay deals on the table. A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “This marks a positive step and takes us closer to resolving this dispute.’ Good Morning Britain broke the good news to commuters.

10 weeks: Just when we thought it was safe to take a train, the front pages tell us it’s the passport people who are now walking out. For five weeks starting in April, around 1,000 civil servants from HM Passport Office will strike over pay, meaning your passport renewal will sit in their in-trays for longer than expected. Fears are, this could affect travellers going away this summer. Strike action starts Monday 3rd April 3 to Friday 5th May. Travel expert Simon Calder had the story.

What went wrong: The PCS union says the government hasn’t been speaking to them and say their staff are now using foodbanks. Speaking to Channel 4 News, Union boss Mark Serwotka warned the strike would have a “significant impact” on the delivery of passports as the summer approaches.

Keep calm: Having been splashed across the front pages of The Times, Daily Mail and the Daily Star on Saturday, holidaymakers panicked causing a surge of passport applications, resulting in an early backlog. Passports were typically being processed and returned within two weeks but the government has said this might be pushed to 10 weeks. A man from Downing Street said: “There are no current plans to change the guidance that people should allow up to 10 weeks to get a passport. The Home Office will work hard to manage the impact of this strike action to ensure they can still provide the vital service to the British public as you would expect ahead of ahead of the summer where we fully acknowledge that many people will want to get away and enjoy the summer with their family. So we will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of the strikes.” 

What is recommended: Check your passport and how long you have left before sending it off for renewal. If you need a passport quickly, you can pay for the one-week fast-track service but that is complicated because you need to book an appointment – and these are all now booked up. New slots are added each day but like booking a GP appointment, you have to get online early. Here’s the advice from Passport Waiting Times – they monitor in real-time how long it’s taking to process a passport application. Currently it’s around three weeks.

We are through corona: A sign if ever we needed one has landed – we are all travelling again. Forget the cost-of-living crisis, when it comes to holidays we’re finding the money. That’s a riddle for the maths boffins. Britain is boring (and cold and windy) and most of us want to get away and warm up. According to an Abta poll marking the one-year anniversary since all UK travel rules were lifted, 65 per cent of us are planning an overseas trip this year – that’s 16 per cent up on 2022. This means travel is back to pre-pandemic levels, said Abta boss Mark Tanzer. To save a few pennies, we have learned that holidays are not just for summer and are booking in advance and out of season. Mr Tanzer said: “On the whole, people are preferring to adapt their travel plans rather than scrap them entirely, primarily by going all-inclusive, booking early or holidaying outside of busy periods.” ITV News had the story.

Cities are getting a break: Holiday-hungry Britons are heading to cities and Rome is the favourite. Thomas Cook said while sandy beach holidays remained the top choice, family city breaks were 40 per cent higher than in 2022. They’re also seeing a trend of bookings to Krakow, Poland and Budapest, Hungary – as well as to Paris and Athens. Emma King from Thomas Cook told PA Media: “We’re also seeing families spread their wings beyond the typical city break destinations and explore alternative getaways to places like Krakow, Budapest and Athens, all of which offer great value and rich history to explore.”

Feastern Europe: Slovenia maybe one of the smallest countries in the world but it ticks all the holiday boxes. It’s mountainous, covered in forest with lots of protected landscapes and Unesco-listed has stunning spas and castles. It touches the snowcapped Alps in the northwest and the shores of Adriatic sea in the southwest. Ljubljana is its capital, Maribor is renowned for wine making and Lake Bled in the Julian Alps is its number one tourist pull. Slovenia was named Europe’s culinary capital in 2021 – the first country, as opposed to region, to get the title. If you don’t know where to start, click here and here.  

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!

Turbulence: A third of planes (37 per cent) were 15 minutes late last year. Which? said the delays were “unacceptable” and called on the Government to do more to fine airlines. Glasgow and Heathrow were among the worst airports – and on average, the Civil Aviation Authority figures showed, flights were 22 minutes delayed. Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at consumer group Which?, said: “These dreadful performance figures will be unsurprising to anyone who endured the widespread chaos at UK airports last year. Which? has received hundreds of testimonies from travellers left high and dry by airlines when their flights were cancelled or delayed, from people abandoned in airports to seek emergency accommodation and alternative flights home, to those still chasing compensation months later. Airlines’ unacceptable treatment of passengers cannot be allowed to stand.”

Holiday recap: The CAA also revealed Spain was the UK’s most popular holiday destination in 2022 with around 16 per cent of all passengers heading for this summer saviour. This pic of a warm sunset in Ibiza (above) shows why we love it so much.

Ramadan Mubarak: London’s West End has been lit up for the first time ever to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, when muslims fast from dusk to dawn. On Wednesday Mayor Sadiq Khan turned on the lights on Coventry Street, which runs from Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square. BBC London had the switch on. 

Race across the world. The TV show dedicated to adventure travel is back, three years after the pandemic. This time though there’s a twist. Instead of teams racing across the world, they are racing across Canada. On Wednesday night at 9pm, on BBC One, the drama began. Five teams have to get from Vancouver on the west coast to St Johns in Newfoundland with no access to phone, internet or credit cards. That’s 16,000 km (10,000 miles) and six time zones with £5,000 in their pocket (quite a lot really). The stakes are high with £20k prize money up for grabs. We don’t care the format has changed. We just wish it was us – we’ll be watching every second. The Guardian gave it five stars!

This time last year: Summer holidays: Longer, farther, hotter! Travel was slowly returning after two years of corona lockdowns…Easter and summer holiday bookings were growing…Passengers on board easyJet flights ditched facemasks…One in three conversations on social media about European travel referred to the war in Ukraine…The reputation of Europe took a dip in North America…travel to Asia was up 9 per cent and to the Americas up 7 per cent…We heard Machu Picchu was never the name of Peru’s biggest tourist attraction. According to experts, the Incas had called it Huayna Picchu…Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan opened the world’s longest suspension bridge – Çanakkale Bridge (15,118ft/ 4,608metres…And a new music venue was coming to London…The MSG Sphere arena in Stratford would be named after Madison Square Garden in New York. West Ham MP Lyn Brown said it was a “monstrosity”.  

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