Source: The Daily Telegraph
Author: Jodie Ensor

It was only a few years ago hard-pressed Britons were choosing to stay in the country for their holiday, giving birth to the phenomenon of the “staycation”.

But with one of the worst summers on record leading to flood warnings and week-long downpours, they are once again packing their bags and seeking sunnier destinations.

Tour operators and travel agents have reported a 20 per cent increase in online searches for foreign holidays last month on the previous year as the weather shows little sign of picking up.

Mark Warner travel agents has seen 25 per cent more bookings this summer, with holidays to debt-hit Greece making up 63 per cent.

Saga Holidays has seen a 13 per cent drop in bookings for holidays in the UK, particularly areas experiencing the worst of the weather, such as Wales and the West Country. Meanwhile, exotic holidays have seen a 20 per cent rise and bookings for Greek resorts have gone up by 67 per cent.

Thomson holiday group Tui said summer bookings are up in every country by an average of 17 per cent – except Britain.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) reports that up to 13 million Britons will be heading abroad this July and August, with 90 per cent of those heading to traditional Mediterranean destinations.

British holidaymakers are also benefiting from cheaper prices due to the eurozone troubles and a strong pound which has increased in value by 10 per cent against the Euro in the last 12 months.

Victoria Bacon, head of communication at ABTA, said: “The UK is a beautiful place with exceptional holiday appeal but the weather this year has been setting records for all the wrong reasons and it is no surprise that millions of us are looking to head off overseas for more reliable weather and high temperatures.”

Fears of flooding at historic sites around the country have also kept many visitors at bay.

David Dawson from the Landmark Trust said some of their sites in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, and Northumberland have seen the worst of the weather.

“Flooding is not something you would expect to have to worry about during the summer period,“ he said. “People seem to be leaving it longer before booking – waiting to see what the weather is like before committing.”

British hotels, resorts and campsites are cutting up to 50 per cent off their high-season prices in an attempt to encourage people to stay and brave the storms.

One holiday park in the Lake District is even offering guests an extra free night’s stay for every day of their holiday when the rainfall exceeds the daily average for the month.

Holiday park owners had accused BBC weather forecasters of frightening visitors away from British seaside resorts, claiming they are issuing “deliberately pessimistic” warnings.

They said it is having a serious effect on the trade as holidaymakers choose to travel abroad where they are assured of higher temperatures and constant daytime sun.

Claire Jeavons, who runs the Beverley Park holiday site in Paignton, Devon, said: “We have had a great start to the season but the bad weather the whole country is getting, along with the downbeat reporting of the bad weather, has had a negative effect on bookings for June and July.

“We are already competing with the poor economy and to have doom and gloom with the weather too, could be catastrophic.”

Sarah Long, spokesman for VisitEngland, said: “Clearly the weather does influence holiday-making decisions in this country — but we must remember that unpredictable summers are now predictable. The trend to make last minute bookings is still strong so people can decide on the day if they want to do a day-trip or take a short break.”