At this time of year, when the tinsel is being taken down and the return to work looms, many of us start dreaming about summer holidays.
But this year, those dreams risk turning into nightmares. The stream of depressing news from the employment market will leave many wondering about how to pay the next round of bills, let alone for a summer vacation.
And even those confident of their job security will find themselves wondering how affordable their usual summer getaway will be in 2009. As we report today, the cost of a typical package holidays will rise by a fifth. The pound has slumped against the euro and the dollar, making those trips to the continent and America prohibitively expensive. And the purchasing power of the sterling has even fallen in popular destinations such as Thailand, Tunisia and Egypt.
Yet, thankfully, there is an attractive alternative on offer to an expensive foreign escape: a British summer holiday. There are many advantages to be reaped from such a switch. If people decide to spend their vacation in the British Isles this year, the domestic economy will receive a welcome boost. If we cut out all those budget and long-haul flights, our national carbon emissions will come down.
But the strongest argument for choosing to holiday in Britain this year is that it is such a wonderful place to spend a few weeks away from work. From the Scottish Highlands to the Cornish coast, from the Lake District to the South Downs, Britain boasts a stunningly beautiful natural environment. And one that too few of us have fully experienced. The right to roam means more of this beautiful countryside is accessible than ever before.
Meanwhile, Britain's cultural riches – Norman castles, medieval churches, countless museums – are as good as any country in the world. Britain has no shortage of pleasures for those who are willing to explore what it has to offer.
Holidaying in Britain in 2009 would be an excellent way to save some money and at the same time discover some of the treasures that lie on our own doorstep. We are even due some decent sunshine this summer. What more invitation is required?