By Haris Degrindakis
International tourism fiefdoms are currently trying to predict the messages of tourism 2024 in an explosive period due to the dramatic events occurring in Israel and Gaza.
The messages coming from the United Kingdom for the upcoming tourist season, just a few hours before the curtain opens on the World Travel Market, the International Tourism Exhibition in London, which is traditionally a barometer for the course of the British market, one of the two main sources of incoming tourism for Greece, is ambiguous.
Despite the unfavorable economic environment and geopolitical developments, the British keep travel on the list of their priorities, limiting other expenses and, in fact, according to the recent survey Abta Holiday Habits 2023 of the Association of British Travel Agents (Association of British Travel Agents – ABTA), more and more Britons are choosing to escape outside the traditional summer season as they look for ‘value for money’ holidays.
According to the available data, the rate of pre-bookings is moving upwards compared to last year, which is attributed to the higher demand for holidays in Greece recorded by tour operators. “The first signs from the UK market are positive for now. The picture as it is being formed is positive, as we are recording higher demand and more advance bookings”, state sources of the Hellenic Tourism Organization (EOT).
In fact, as they point out, the British market seems to be recovering its former rhythms, with the British choosing to plan their holidays early and not wait for last minute bookings, a trend that has strengthened significantly in recent years.
In this direction, the strong tour operators operating in the British market have added over 3 million available air seats from different UK airports.
The inhibiting factors
As mentioned above, the wars raging in Ukraine and Israel, as well as the increase in the cost of travel, especially of organized tourist packages, act as obstacles to the intention of the British to plan holidays.
“There is no clear picture so far of the course of the British market in 2024 as far as Greece is concerned. Two factors affecting the demand for Greece are, on the one hand, the increase in prices compared to last year and the mismatch observed in relation to quality (value for money) and, on the other hand, the geopolitical instability of the wider eastern Mediterranean basin and the proximity of Greece to war zone of the Middle East”, emphasizes Noel Iosifidis, former president of ABTA.
In fact, as sources with knowledge of the market point out, prices on the islands of the Cyclades have increased by 30% compared to this year, which prevents many travelers from choosing specific destinations.
Accordingly, as they emphasize, in the Peloponnese the price increase does not exceed 3%, which has a positive effect on attracting travelers. The same sources, however, state that the increase in prices has made Greece more expensive compared to Spain and Portugal, two destinations that are located at a shorter distance from Britain. “The cost of air tickets and consequently the packages available for Greece are 30%-40% more expensive than in Spain”, they point out.
At the same time, Turkey is rising in the preferences of British travelers, who, looking for cheaper destinations, due to their limited budget, are turning to our neighboring country.
New destinations in the Balkan peninsula are also entering the game, such as Albania and Bulgaria, which, thanks to low costs, seem to be gaining their own audience.
A blow to Greece is expected to be, however, the lockout of the James Villas company, which was also active in our country offering hundreds of luxury homes for rent.
The ABTA investigation
Findings from the ABTA Holiday Habits 2023 report showed that Britons’ bookings and confidence in travel remain strong despite environmental challenges.
Indicatively, 84% of respondents stated that they went on vacation in the last year, with 52% stating that they traveled abroad. Of those who traveled abroad, 61% went on organized holidays.
Particularly encouraging is the fact that the strong appetite for travel looks set to continue next year, with 64% saying they intend to take a trip abroad.
72% of travelers believe the rising cost of living will affect their travel plans in 2024 and plan to look for ways to cut costs, 22% will take fewer holidays, 21% will book cheaper accommodation , while, finally, 17% will spend a smaller amount on food during their vacation.
In fact, according to ABTA figures, an increased number of travelers are planning to take their holidays in spring and autumn, boosting the trend for year-round travel, with May and June predicted to be the most popular months for holidays abroad in 2024.
An important criterion for the planning of the holidays of the British is the cost. In fact, more and more travelers book a holiday package through a travel agent, as they believe that this will ensure “value for money”, the correspondence between quality and price.
61% who traveled abroad in the past year chose package holidays, citing price as a key criterion. The percentage of those who said they booked a travel package because it was the best value option increased to 42% compared to 34% last year.
In the same vein, 33% said they booked a package because they wanted an all-inclusive vacation, compared to 28% last year. Of the 35% who booked a holiday abroad with a travel professional in the last 12 months, those citing money as a criterion for this choice increased significantly, to 38% from 26% last year.
However, the data shows that 34% of travelers, in order not to miss their vacation, intend to cut back on other expenses, such as dining out (57%), leisure activities and shopping for clothes (46%) and finally shoes and accessories purchases (42%). The majority, 51%, plan to spend the same amount of money on vacation this year as in the last 12 months, with just 28% planning to spend more.
The importance of the UK market
The British market is of high importance for Greek tourism. It is indicative that based on the data available so far, in 2023 the British market has overtaken the German market in terms of revenue, leaving it in second place.
Specifically, according to the Travel Balance of the Bank of Greece, over 3.01 million Britons traveled to Greece in the eight months of January – August, spending 2.36 billion euros. Accordingly, 3.07 million Germans visited our country in the eight months, with the corresponding travel receipts amounting to 2.34 billion euros.