Sterling recovery and winter sun deals boost long haul prospects
The Far East looks unbeatable value for winter sun trips according to the latest annual Long Haul Holiday Report from Post Office Travel Services.
Thailand again tops the Post Office barometer of holiday spending costs, but Bali and Malaysia are close contenders – all three significantly cheaper than any of Europe’s winter sun options (postoffice.co.uk/longhaul2009).
2009 has seen some of the lowest ever package prices for Thailand and estimates show prices could be up to 25 per cent cheaper than last winter. Thailand also benefits from a shopping basket of popular tourist staples priced at just £38.13, which is around one third of the cost in Australia, whose basket totals £104.95 – making it the highest priced of 16 long haul destinations in the Post Office Holiday Costs Barometer.
The same is true of Bali, runner up to Thailand in the Post Office survey. The Indonesian country enjoyed its best year this decade with demand up 54 per cent during the summer for its currency, the rupiah. This makes it the third fastest growing currency in Post Office branches, behind the Kenyan shilling and South African rand.
But a sterling recovery puts Mexico and Jamaica high among the contenders for best value winter sun trips. Holidaymakers returning to Mexico, hard-hit earlier this year by the swine flu epidemic, can expect over 12 per cent more pesos for their pounds.
Jamaica was the cheapest of the Caribbean destinations surveyed for the Holiday Costs Barometer – 21 per cent cheaper than Antigua. With sterling currently worth over 12 per cent more than a year ago, the Jamaican dollar is close behind the Mexican peso in offering UK tourists the most currency for their pounds this winter.
Despite sterling’s slide against the dollar in early 2009, the latest Post Office research shows that almost one third of holidaymakers planning winter trips will head to the USA. Tour operators report soaring sales for Florida, New York and Las Vegas – and, with sterling now worth 21 per cent more than at its low point in March, UK tourists can benefit from lower prices in shops and restaurants hit hard by the credit crunch.
UK tourists may also be deserting independent travel for a package holiday. New Post Office consumer research revealed that just 25 per cent of people remain staunchly independent, preferring to make all their own bookings. 21 per cent of those who had previously travelled independently said they were considering booking a package holiday – 10 per cent for the financial protection afforded and 11 per cent because they thought they would get a cheaper deal.
Sarah Munro, Post Office head of travel services, said: "Cost remains the big issue for people planning holidays and it is not surprising that package holidays, which provide protection if an airline or hotel goes out of business are showing greater appeal, especially now that packages can be tailor-made to suit the individual.
“When it comes to both cost and value for money, Thailand, Bali and Malaysia are the top three hotspots this winter. Not only are they the cheapest in our Holiday Costs Barometer survey of living costs but great deals on package holidays are on offer too.
“The USA is an incredibly resilient holiday destination – whatever the exchange rate. Sterling’s recent recovery together with price-cutting by holiday operators and US retailers means that a trip stateside will still be good value - especially for shopping.
“However, UK holidaymakers need to be careful to get their currency in advance as leaving it late and changing money at the airport or in overseas ATMs means wasting hard-earned cash. They should also consider taking a pre-paid Post Office Travel Money Card loaded up with extra cash, in case they run out while overseas.”
Over 1,600 Post Office bureau de change branches offer a wide range of long haul currencies on demand, including the US dollar and Thai baht. All currencies featured in the long haul Holiday Costs Barometer can be pre-ordered for collection or home delivery at all 12,000 Post Office branches and online at postoffice.co.uk.