Holidaymakers shun Turkey in favour of its more reliable neighbours

When it comes to attracting British holidaymakers, Greece has triumphed in the tourism battle over neighbouring Turkey. In the past two years, the Greek share of the UK package holiday market has risen by almost 50 per cent, while Turkey has seen visitor numbers fall by a third.

When it comes to attracting British holidaymakers, Greece has triumphed in the tourism battle over neighbouring Turkey. In the past two years, the Greek share of the UK package holiday market has risen by almost 50 per cent, while Turkey has seen visitor numbers fall by a third.

The survey was released on the eve of the annual Association of Britain Travel Agents (Abta) convention, which begins this morning on the Greek island of Kos, just three miles from the Turkish mainland. Almost 1,000 British travellers were quizzed by Mori at the end of the summer season, and the results compared with a similar survey in 1998.

Spain remains by far the favourite destination for package holidays, with 43 per cent travelling there this summer - a drop of three per cent. In second place, Greece has risen from 11 per cent to 16 per cent. France is third, with seven per cent, though it remains overall the British traveller's favourite; most UK visitors make their own arrangements to cross the Channel rather than buying package holidays.

Turkey has seen its visitor figures collapse, down from nine to six per cent. In the past two years it has suffered from a catastrophic earthquake and increased threats from the Kurdish separatist group PKK towards foreign holidaymakers. Turkey has been overtaken by Cyprus, which has boomed as a destination for young travellers in search of dance music; to seal its claim to be cool, Radio One broadcast from the resort of Agia Napa in the summer. Around one million British people will visit the Republic of Cyprus this year, with fewer than 50,000 venturing into Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

The convention is taking place amid concern from travel agents that they will lose business to the Web. The survey shows 3 per cent of people booked a package holiday on the internet. But Keith Betton of Abta said: "More people will use the internet, but not so many that it would be catastrophic for agents."

The survey also suggested British travellers were becoming more concerned about adverse effects of tourism on the environment. Two-thirds of those questioned said they would be prepared to pay between £10 and £25 extra to help protect the environment. But Neil Taylor of Regent Holidays said: "We're all vaguely green and in favour of protecting the environment, but it's difficult to see how such a charge would work in practice." Meanwhile, the Greek national airline has slashed fares in business class to attract British travellers to Australia. Olympic Airways, which was founded by Aristotle Onassis but has been chronically unprofitable for decades, has cut the business-class fare to Sydney or Melbourne to £1,528 for a return flight, one-third of the corresponding fare on British Airways.

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