Bombings fail to dent British enthusiasm to visit Spain at Easter

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The Independent Online

A record two million Britons are planning to go abroad for the Easter break, with Spain still the most popular destination, despite last month's terrorist attack on Madrid and last week's discovery of a bomb planted on a railway track, travel industry officials said last night.

A record two million Britons are planning to go abroad for the Easter break, with Spain still the most popular destination, despite last month's terrorist attack on Madrid and last week's discovery of a bomb planted on a railway track, travel industry officials said last night.

"Spain is still by far the most popular holiday destination for Easter in spite of the bombings," said Sean Tipton, spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta). "Terrorist activities don't tend to deter tourists unless tourists have been directly targeted like they were in Bali."

Newer holiday hotspots in central and eastern Europe, such as Prague and the Black Sea coast, are also proving extremely popular, he said.

But the UK is fighting hard to keep Britons at home. This Easter, as many as one in four of us, according to the latest figures, will opt for a holiday in Britain.

Though UK destinations are unusually popular this Easter, thousands of us are leaving bucket and spade at home in favour of clubbing and shopping. This year, for the first time, city breaks in London, Manchester and Leeds are outstripping the more traditional seaside holiday centres such as Blackpool and Great Yarmouth.

The record numbers quitting Britain for Easter, revealed in statistics provided by Abta, point to the increasing readiness of Britons to splash out on foreign holidays.

But it's not all gloom for Britain's seasides. VisitBritain, the national tourism body, singles out Cornwall and Suffolk as exceptionally strong Easter attractions for holidaymakers horrified at the thought of airport queues and battling with baggage.

"Padstow, St Mawes and Rock in Cornwall have become coastal hotspots," the VisitBritain spokesman, Elliot Frisby, said. "They are fairly upmarket destinations."

In Suffolk, Southwold and Aldeburgh - for generations favourites of middle-class Londoners - have become even more popular in recent years.

"Because they are within easy reach of London they have become very desirable," said Mr Frisby. "They are fashionable short-break destinations for London's professionals."

Meanwhile, new figures from the World Tourism Authority reveal that in 2003 tourism slumped worldwide, with economic uncertainty, war in the Middle East and terrorism adding to the travel industry's woes. Last year, the WTA says, international tourism fell 1.2 per cent compared with 2002 - equivalent to a fall of 8.5 million tourist journeys worldwide.

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