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.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice