Kate Simon: Value for money is the new mantra – at home and abroad

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The Independent Travel

George Osborne isn't the first to start belt-tightening. British holidaymakers have been imposing their own austerity measures for some months now. So says the second annual Travel Report from Visa Europe.

The credit- and debit-card supplier has analysed the spending habits of those of its UK-based cardholders who travelled abroad in 2009, drawing on data from 260 million transactions. Its findings indicate that we reacted quickly to the economic gloom, cutting spending while on holiday by a half-billion quid compared with 2008.

The US took the main hit, with Spain and France, also favoured destinations for Brits, following hard on its heels. Savings made in overall spending included shelling out 25 per cent less on car rental and 14 per cent less on accommodation. The few winners included supermarkets abroad, which took £10m more from us at their tills, suggesting that the old stalwart, self-catering, is the sure way to keep travelling while balancing the budget.

Almost half those questioned, in a survey of 1,000 people conducted for Visa Europe as part of the report, confirmed that the strength of sterling directly affected their choice of destination. Many of us went further afield to find added currency value in 2009, visiting less well-known hot spots such as Namibia, which welcomed double the number of British visitors last year, and Lebanon, where our numbers soared by 40 per cent. Of course, Spain, the US and France, in that order, remained the preferred places to travel to, even if we didn't spend quite so much while we were there.

More trends were revealed by British Airways this week. The airline reported that its holiday bookings were up by 56 per cent over the past year, thanks to the introduction of "dynamic packaging" to its website in spring 2009.

To you and me this means that if you click on the option "Book Together and Save" in the "Create Your Trip" panel on the home page, you can book a flight and hotel, or flight and car hire, and receive "guaranteed savings compared with booking it separately". Also, your whole booking becomes Atol-protected, a guarantee that guards against holidaymakers losing money or being stranded abroad if the tour operator goes out of business.

BA now offers 6,000 hotels, compared with 1,500 just a year ago. Interestingly, that includes a 70 per cent rise in all-inclusive properties – three, four and five star. BA, like many tour operators, has spotted that more of us are opting to go all-inclusive, perceiving it to offer added value. All-inclusives may have suffered from a cheap and cheerful image – enforced accessorising with brightly coloured wristbands the only way to get a drink at the bar or a go on the banana boat – but now, they're flavour of the month again.

BA was, of course, keen to get out some good news while embroiled in its bitter dispute with cabin crew. Noises about the strike from some senior staff at that same briefing only served to confirm that the BA management was entrenched. Yet, trying to find a way forward with the staff who will deliver the brand is key if BA hopes to have any good news to report in 2011.

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