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TOURISM MATTERS: Take note of changing British holiday trends

Adrian Loveridge

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Britons travelling long-haul are beginning to forsake traditional seven-night beach holidays in favour of packing different experiences into one trip.
That is the conclusion of the latest Long Haul Trend Report published recently by Hayes and Jarvis, one of Britain’s oldest established and most successful tour operators specialising in long haul holidays and who are now part of the TUI Travel empire.
It also revealed that the “destinations making waves in 2013 are ones which lend themselves to a combination of city, beach and culture or heritage tours”.
For the sales period January-May 2013, their bestselling destinations are:
1) New York, 2) Las Vegas, 3) Thailand, 4) The Maldives, 5) Mexico, 6) Mauritius, 7) Dubai, 8) California, 9) Kenya and 10) St Lucia.
And the fastest growing destinations for the same period were:
1) Vietnam, 2) Brazil, 3) Kenya, 4) Tanzania, 5) South Africa, 6) Egypt, 7) New York, 8) Dominican Republic, 9) Las Vegas and 10) Mauritius.
Steady decline
Sean Dowd, head of commercial with Hayes and Jarvis, said: “While off-the-peg beach packages are still popular – especially four- and five-star all-inclusive ones – there is no doubting the steady decline in demand for traditional fly-and-flop beach holidays.
“In sharp contrast, our multi-centre trip bookings have doubled over the last two years and now account for over a third of our business and this growth trend is one which we expect to accelerate.”
Is this the time to look more carefully at how we in Barbados can capitalize on this growing market, particularly bearing in mind the new Virgin Atlantic and Delta Airlines strategic alliance. It just might help sustain the return of a direct Atlanta/Barbados service.
To be truly objective, you have to remember that this is a report by one tour operator and without knowing any demographic sampling of their average customer, we cannot assume that it is totally representative of  all our visitors from this major market.
However, there are some alarming signals, especially for us in Barbados.
The drop-off in demand has been even more marked in the major Caribbean islands with Barbados (down 51 per cent) and Antigua (down 58 per cent), experiencing the biggest drops.
More expensive
Seemingly, however, as if to reinforce the belief by many, that the APD has not had the devastating effect generally thought, bookings for Tobago are up 16 per cent and the Dominican Republic up 14 per cent, both when compared with last year.
Perhaps the Dominican Republic can be partially explained by price points and perceived value-for-money, but Tobago is another story.
A comparable seven-night all-inclusive stay at a Four Star hotel with flights from Gatwick in June taken from their brochure puts the Barbados product as 65 per cent more expensive than the Dominican Republic’s.
But the closest lodging comparison that can be made between Barbados and Tobago, would be two three star all-inclusive hotels, where the Tobago package is in fact at a slightly higher price.
So among the questions we should be asking is: why are we losing market share to Tobago and continue to lose business to St Lucia?