A new report from ABTA reveals that demand for vacations is holding strong among people in the UK, with the majority choosing package holidays. Jenny Southan reports

The Holiday Habits 2023-2024 report from ABTA – the Travel Association, shows strong demand for – and confidence in taking – overseas holidays, despite on-going pressure from the cost-of-living squeeze.

In the 12 months to August 2023, 52 per cent of the UK population went on a holiday abroad and took an average of 1.4 holidays abroad each, in line with typical pre-pandemic levels over the last ten years. This appetite for travel looks set to remain strong into 2024, as almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of people say they plan to take a trip overseas in the next 12 months.

The report shows that people are making price-driven decisions about their travel plans due to the rising cost of living – and they’re turning to package holidays and travel professionals to make the most of their budget.

Of those who took a foreign trip in the last year, 61 per cent went on a package holiday, with the price the main motivation for choosing this way to book.

Those saying they booked a package because it was the best value option for the price rose to 42 per cent compared with 34 per cent last year while a third (33 per cent) said they booked a package because they wanted an all-inclusive holiday, up from 28 per cent who said the same last year.

Competitive pricing was also among the top reasons for booking with a travel professional. Of the 35 per cent of people who booked a holiday abroad with a travel professional in the last 12 months, those citing value for money as their reason for doing so was up considerably, to 38 per cent from 26 per cent last year.

ABTA’s data also shows holidays will remain a spending priority for the year ahead compared with other sectors. People are planning to cut back on other non-essentials, such as eating out (57 per cent), leisure activities (46 per cent) and clothes, shoes and accessories (42 per cent) before cutting back on their holidays (34 per cent).

The majority of people (51 per cent) are planning to spend the same amount of money on holidays this coming year as during the last 12 months, with a significant proportion instead planning to spend more (28 per cent).

But, although the findings show that many people plan to go on holiday keeping to the same sort of budget, most (72 per cent) say the cost of living will affect their travel plans. To help them save, customers will adopt a range of cost-cutting tactics such as taking fewer holidays (22 per cent), booking cheaper accommodation (21 per cent) and eating out less on holiday (17 per cent).

ABTA’s data suggests that May and June will be the most popular months for overseas breaks in the year ahead, with 21 per cent of people planning to travel in those months, just ahead of October (19 per cent) and just slightly ahead of the traditional peak months of July (17 per cent) and August (17 per cent). Many ABTA members have extended the seasons in some destinations, such as Turkey and Greece, and added capacity in the shoulder season.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA – The Travel Association, says: “Over the past 12 months, household budgets have continued to be stretched by the rising cost of living while travel has been hit by a variety of challenges – including wildfires and an unprecedented air traffic control outage.

“Despite this, people’s commitment to their holidays, and their confidence in travel, remain strong. This is due in no small part to the hard work and tenacity of our members, who have worked tirelessly to find the best value break for their customers’ budgets and supported them when things haven’t quite gone to plan.

“For the first time, our Holiday Habits report includes a Travel Confidence Index, which will allow us to measure more accurately people’s confidence levels. This gives us a greater understanding of the degree to which external factors like economic challenges or large-scale disruption affect people’s overall confidence to travel.”