The bother and cost of holidaying at home drives Britons abroad

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The Independent Travel

A more favourable set of circumstances to boost domestic tourism is difficult to imagine.

A more favourable set of circumstances to boost domestic tourism is difficult to imagine.

A spell of unseasonably fine weather settles on Britain; a leading guidebook changes its tone to declare this is "quite simply one of the most beautiful islands on earth"; and many people are fearful of flying overseas because of concerns over terrorist attack and Sars.

Yet despite the incentives to stay, there are several reasons British holidaymakers will keep travelling abroad.

The first is the bother of booking. The typical high street travel agent is set up to dispense overseas package holidays. The industry's technology is configured to finding fortnights in Fuengirola, not Filey. With the exception of a few brave pioneers such as Webweekends, the internet is not bursting with "one-stop shops" to arrange a domestic break.

Besides that, British holidays are likely to be more expensive. Should you want to fly, at short notice, from London to Stornoway in Scotland, British Airways' fare is £541 return – more than prevailing fares between the UK and Australia.

Then there are the trains. The operators decline to dovetail services with each other, and penalise last-minute travel. The general condition of the transport infrastructure is atrocious.

The strength of the pound means British prices for holiday staples, from meals to hotel rooms, are among the highest in the world. To confound matters, you cannot be confident of the quality of the accommodation for which you are paying handsomely. England's criteria for awarding star ratings are radically different to those in Wales and Scotland. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport needs to bang together the heads of vested interests until a single system is agreed.

A template for tourism success is provided by a small company based in Glasgow. Scotia Travel assembles short-break holidays in western Scotland, and markets them in competition with continental destinations.

One phone call will take you from London, Birmingham or Manchester by air via Glasgow to the island of Barra; two nights of dinner, bed and breakfast are followed by a ferry ride past Mull to Oban and the stunning train ride to Glasgow.

While much of the rest of the travel industry is in turmoil, Scotia Travel reports domestic business is "very strong".