Non-flaming June drives Britons to sunnier climes

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Consumer Affairs Correspondent

The gloomy June weather is driving thousands of Britons to book a place in the sun. The travel trade yesterday reported a flurry of last-minute business, with people taking advantage of widespread discounting to escape the "feelbad" factor.

High-street travel agents including Thomas Cook, Lunn Poly and Going Places reported a late surge in bookings and attributed it to the poor weather and cuts of nearly 20 per cent in package tour prices.

Lunn Poly, which today launches discounts including pounds 100 on a pounds 515 self-catering holiday for two in Tenerife, said the "unseasonably cool" June weather had persuaded many to book a holiday abroad.

Peter Povey, its marketing director, said: "The unseasonable weather, and the fact that there are some great offers available have meant very good holiday sales."

Average June temperatures have been up to three degrees lower than normal and parts of eastern England have had only a third of their normal sunshine. The Meteorological Office said yesterday there was no sign of an improvement over the next few days.

The poor weather has helped rescue the package tour trade, which had budgeted for 10 million holidays this summer but by the start of June had more than 3 million unsold. The industry blamed consumer uncertainty and said people were delaying decisions until they were sure they still had a job.

According to Lunn Poly, the number of unsold holidays has now been cut to 2.5 million. Thomas Cook said sales for June were 6 per cent higher than last year and Going Places put the increase at nearer 10 per cent. Kevin Welch, marketing director of Going Places, which is offering reductions of up to pounds 150 per booking, said: "At the end of the day, a holiday is more of a necessity than the luxury it used to be. People have been minimising the financial risk by putting it off to the last minute. But they have been deferring the decision rather than abandoning the idea."

According to the Association of British Travel Agents, many people may also have calculated that by buying a discounted self-catering holiday, they could live almost as cheaply abroad as at home, but with the added bonus of warm sunny weather.