Adventure holidays keep more at home

Forget Mediterranean beaches - llama-trekking, driving tanks and murder mystery weekends are among the best-loved breaks
Click to follow
The image of a wet weekend in Bognor is dead. The hot summer of 1995 lured Britons away from Mediterranean beaches to spend more time and a record amount of money in England.

Llama-trekking on the South Downs, driving tanks in Norfolk, murder mystery weekends in country houses - all are digging away at traditional bucket- and-spade breaks in the sun.

The annual report of the English Tourist Board (ETB) reveals that spending on domestic tourism - one or more nights away from home - rose by 10 per cent last year, making a total of 99.6 million trips. An even bigger increase in holidays lasting four to seven days - 13 per cent - helped raise domestic spending to a record pounds 6.8bn.

Seaside holidays are still our favourite, accounting for nearly two in five trips in England and generating pounds 3bn. The most popular destination remained the West Country, home of cream teas and sunny beaches.

However, the biggest growth was recorded in Northumbria - 25 per cent up. There were also 9.6 million trips to the North West, 10.2 million to Yorkshire and Humberside and 3.3 million to Cumbria.

"The North has done brilliantly," said Tim Bartlett, the ETB's chief executive. "We're moving away from the idea of lying on a beach sweltering. People like to go walking, cycling ... and there is beautiful open countryside in somewhere like Cumbria."

The second biggest improvement was in London, which saw 10.4 million trips. "London has become a very fashionable place," said Mr Bartlett. "There is a tremendous amount of new developments, like the Trocadero. There is a theatrical renaissance going on, whatever Trevor Nunn might say. And we have some of the best restaurants in the world."

Total turnover of tourism for the UK in 1995 was more than pounds 37bn. It provided 1.7m jobs and accounted for more than 5 per cent of gross domestic product.

The figures for 1995 came before the end of the IRA ceasefire, but the ETB are hoping that the recent bombings in London and Manchester will not dent this year's numbers.

"If there is any impression, it is usually short lived," said Mr Bartlett.

The chairman of the ETB, David Quarmby, said there was still much to be done to improve services for visitors.

"The information revolution has so far passed the tourist industry by," he said. "Yet it is the one consumer sector where information is most critical, because of the non-routine nature of the purchase decision, and the degree of fragmentation."

Mr Quarmby added: "I would like to see national tourist information available on a freephone 0800 number. Also we are only nibbling at the edges of information on tourism on the Internet."

But the Costa Brava is not forgotten. A spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents said: "The lure of the foreign holiday remains strong. People are not giving up going abroad; they are taking a break in England as well."

t English Tourist Board Annual Report; pounds 15; Mail Order Sales, ETB, Thames Tower, Black's Road, London W6 9EL.

Leading article, page 13

Where we went and what we spent

Destination Trips (millions) Spending (pounds m)

West Country 15.8 2,220

Southern England 12.4 1,100

East Anglia 11.0 960

London 10.4 880

Yorks & Humberside 10.2 850

North West 9.6 1,060

Heart of England 9.6 715

South East 8.9 725

East Midlands 8.0 710

Northumbria 3.8 370

Cumbria 3.3 410

Source: BTA/ETB