Simon Calder: Travel peak season, pay peak prices

The man who pays his way

Votes for Women, Free Nelson Mandela and End the Great Half-term Rip-offs: all three look like causes that every right-thinking person should support. After the first and second came to pass, surely the third should be a cinch?

This week, a survey made the shocking revelation that holiday prices respond to supply and demand. They rise at peak times such as half term when more people want to travel. Time for action from the Department for Education, the Office of Fair Trading, or perhaps even Mr Mandela.

What tosh. Prices go up during school holidays because of the cold, unemotional hand of capitalism. Taking a snapshot of package holidays this week, I found dramatic differences that a family of four would pay. An all-inclusive week at the Coral Sea Resort in Egypt, with Thomson from Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh, leaving tomorrow, costs a total of £2,773. One week later, the price slumps to £1,435. Save £200 a day by taking the children out of school the week after half term – or pay a 93 per cent penalty for sticking to school dates.

Even more dramatic savings are for an August week in Florida with Virgin Holidays, flying Gatwick-Orlando and staying at the Ramada Main Gate West. Fly out on 20 August and you will have little change from £2,000 per person: the total, £7,882, includes Premium Economy – cheaper seats are not available on the return leg. A week later, the cheapest deal with an inbound upgrade to Premium Economy is £4,954; delaying for seven days saves £3,000.

What a cruel world, you may conclude; how dare that Sir Richard Branson demand such extortionate prices from hard-working families? Yet it is not a right nor a privilege, nor even remotely desirable to visit central Florida in August.

The Sunshine State's tourist industry discovered that – along with mad dogs – Englishmen and their families (plus Scots, Welsh and Irish people) would willingly queue in the noonday sun for rides at Walt Disney World and Universal. Orlando is climatically unfit for human habitation between June and September. Along with Santa Special day-trips to Lapland, an August holiday in Florida is as close as the travel industry gets to cruel and unusual punishment.

Go to northern France instead, perhaps using the cheap ferry deal suggested here.

Just suppose the government bowed to pressure and ruled that no holiday company could increase prices by more than, say, 50 per cent during school holidays. The immediate result would be fewer holidays on offer – and higher prices for those that remain. The package-holiday industry runs at a loss for most of the year, selling flights and hotels at below cost. Companies survive only because they can, with a bit of luck, double prices during school holidays. Take away the right to respond to demand and you remove the opportunity to make money. Holiday itineraries that are marginally profitable would start losing money and be axed.

Were Thomson, Thomas Cook and Virgin Holidays making excessive profits, I would be first to protest – and the second principle of capitalism would soon come into play.

Other companies would wade in with additional supply, and prices would fall. The travel market is far from equitable, but it remains the best mechanism that exists to allocate that all-too-scarce resource: the holiday.

Time to brag about costly holidays

The travel industry does itself no favours by getting all defensive and apologetic over raising prices when demand is high. Five years ago, Abta – the travel association representing agents and operators – helped to launch an initiative called "Every Lesson Counts". It purported to offer cheap deals in August, to reduce parents' propensity to take children out of school to save cash. The public was unconvinced, and the project fizzled out.

Instead, the travel industry should be triumphant about the high margins it can command during school holidays. As destinations as diverse as Norway and the Anantara Resort in Bali demonstrate, high prices usually reflect high quality.

Thomson should boast that plenty of people evidently regard its all-inclusive week in Egypt as good value at £700 per person. And if you can travel the following week, those same sensations – warmth, indulgence and exploration – are yours at half price.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: MI Developer

    £35 - 45k: Guru Careers: An MI Developer is needed to join the leading provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitness Manager

    £20000 - £22500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leisure organisation manag...

    Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Manager

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Delivering an inspiring, engagi...

    Recruitment Genius: Learning Team Administrator

    £17500 - £20500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for a great te...

    Day In a Page

    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
    Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

    In the driving seat: Peter Kay

    Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road