Old News, Direct from Scotland
- This evening's "Scotsman", in Edinburgh, carries the news that
Andrew Weir (operator of the RMS St. Helena) offers trips to
Tristan (see fourth paragraph from the end). Discerning
readers will know that the RMS made its last trip to Tristan
five months ago.
Tristan News Direct from the Caribbean :)
Scottish news direct from Scotland
Wednesday, 9th June 2004
Why Spain's on the wane
FORGET glossy brochures of perfect families lying on lilos lapping up the rays in the Costa del Sol. For the shelves of our
travel agents are increasingly becoming adorned with adventure shots of people trekking in the Andes, diving in the Red Sea
or white-water rafting in New Zealand.
Spain’s Costa Brava, the area that launched the package holiday phenomenon in the 1960s, has been dropped from First Choice’s
summer 2005 brochures, while Cosmos has abandoned Ibiza and Club 18-30 has pulled out of Benidorm. The reign of the package
beach holiday, which has dominated the British market for over three decades, appears to be in jeopardy.
With package holiday bookings down by nearly a quarter compared with the same time last year, First Choice says "destination
fatigue" is to blame. The company’s product director, Tim Williamson, says: "Our sales have declined to the Costa Brava. We
have not been able to secure the price or quality on beds, so we will not be flying there from summer 2005."
To curb mounting losses, the company decided to introduce activity holidays such as trekking and sailing - and has just
announced that the move has helped cut pre-tax losses by 7.62 per cent, from £55.1m to £50.9m. Indeed, for those exploiting
the market, the profitable activity sector offers rich pickings.
And First Choice is not alone. Sean Tipton, spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents, says: "Foreign holidays
have been pretty standard for most people from the 1970s. Now it would be an unusual person who did not go abroad at least
once in a year.
"People have been, when they were children, to the standard Costa destinations and now they’re looking for something a little
bit different. The British tourist industry has always been very responsive to changes in demand from our customers.
"Because of that, tour operators are now concentrating more than they did in the past on specialist holidays such as activity
holidays or long-haul holidays."
The changing tide is also being felt closer to home. Ian Chambers, chief executive of Frutin Travel, has observed a rise in
adventure and activity holidays. "The public used to buy two weeks pure sun-based holidays but we’ve seen a decline in that.
"We still sell bucket-loads of one-week packages where people want to just go and relax on a beach. I don’t think anybody
would mind going to Greece or Turkey for a week just to relax, but for two weeks, that kind of thing’s a little bit old hat,"
Added to the decline in 14-day beach holidays, he says: "There is an ever increasing amount of people who want to do
something of interest on their holiday. People these days want to look forward to doing something different. Over the last
two to three years, it’s become more and more noticeable. An ever- increasing percentage [of trips we sell are activity
holidays]. It’s a very interesting new side of the business."
So, if beach holidays in Spain and Corfu are specks on the horizon, slipping out of focus, what destinations are moving into
the fore ground? And what activities are we all signing up to on foreign shores?
Chambers says rising destinations include Egypt, Thailand and Cambodia. He says lots of customers incorporate a three-day
"soft" - that is, supervised - adventure into their Thai holiday, including a day elephant-back trekking followed by a day’s
"It’s something completely different," he says. "People get really excited at the idea and come back with fabulous
photographs. It’s definitely something interesting and exciting."
Similarly, he says people travelling to Turkey are increasingly spending a week of their holiday sailing or mountain biking.
And there are no age boundaries.
"Personally speaking, I bought a backpack for the first time in my life five years ago. I would never have dreamt of doing
that in my 20s but now I’m in my 40s, I love getting on a train and travelling overnight somewhere and travelling to an
island in south-east Asia.
"A whole lot of people - especially people in my age group who have done a lot of travelling to Europe and maybe the States -
are looking for that kind of adventure, something a little bit more exciting. If you’re used to taking a wife and two kids
and all of a sudden it’s just the husband and wife, very often they’ll continue to spend the same sum of money, but go
With more disposable income and the monotony of day-to-day working life, many people are seeking a mini-adventure to spice up
their valued time off.
"They’re very easy to sell," says Chambers. "People just come in looking for something different. They don’t really know what
they want, and when you start suggesting that kind of thing, you see their eyes light up, thinking ‘yes, this is exactly what
we want; what we don’t want to do is book ourselves on a beach for two weeks’.
"People value their leisure time and they look back on a two-week package and see the same hotel sun-lounger or bit of beach
that they were on every day isn’t really the best use of valuable vacation time.
"People want to look back and think ‘last week we were on an elephant’s back riding through the jungle’. People now want a
vacation experience as opposed to just a vacation."
Popular holidays, he says, include jungle trekking and elephant-back riding in south-east Asia, rafting in the Grand Canyon,
mountaineering in the Andes, Himalayas and Europe, kayaking and exploring rock formations in south-east Asia, scuba diving in
Egypt, Thailand and Australia and Harley Davidson tours in Australia and the United States. Safari jungle trips in Africa are
Meanwhile, Tipton expects New Zealand, Croatia, Bulgaria and Tasmania to "increase significantly" due to the breadth of
activities and sights on offer at reasonable value.
"If you look at the number of people taking package holidays, they’re higher than they’ve ever been, but what would be
treated as package holidays has changed beyond all recognition from what we would have talked about in the early 70s," he adds.
"It’s activity in the widest sense of the word: people tend to associate activity with sport, but it could be learning how to
paint or cook in Italy, doing a yoga course in Greece, spa holidays in Eastern Europe. It’s a more sophisticated market."
And he says disposable income and falling prices have played their part. "More money, more holidays and more discriminating:
all those things together. Prices have come down considerably.
"A flight to America to New York in the 60s would have been £200 - a month to a month and a half’s salary - and now you can
still go for £200 which is a fraction of the price in real terms. There’s been a massive drop in prices. It’s much cheaper to
He says the trend spans the young and old alike. Young adventurers in their late teens, 20s and early 30s are jet-setting off
on adventure holidays, after which there is a dip until people reach their late 40s, 50s and 60s, with more disposable income
once their offspring have flown the nest.
Volunteer travel organisation i-to-i offers two to three-week working breaks in a lion cub sanctuary in South Africa, feeding
and exercising the king of the jungle for £645, and Exodus offers "discovery, wildlife and adventure" holidays, including
15-day "Arctic explorer" trips, from £4020, and eight-day "gorilla treks" in Uganda and Rwanda, from £1199, as well as
Lapland adventures, trekking the Inca Trail and cycling the Great Wall of China.
WT Associates offer seven-day trips sailing the Nile for £599, Quark Expeditions offer trips to the Arctic, Antarctic and
North Pole, World Expeditions operates "small groups journeys, adventures and expeditions" to the Himalayas, South America
and all over the world.
Peltours organises tailor-made scuba diving trips to Egypt, Gecko Travel operates small group adventure tours to south-east
Asia, Andrew Weir Shipping specialises in breaks on the South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha, 1700 miles from South
Africa, and Quest Travel designs trips to New Zealand and the Pacific, to name but a few.
Meanwhile, Nepal and Victoria Falls number among STA Travel’s top five adventure destinations for 2004.
If the thought of a mini-adventure leaves you salivating more than the thought of an iced martini in Torremolinos, the choice
is mindboggling - and thankfully you won’t need to take out a mortgage to afford it.
"It’s a big growing area and it’s going to continue to grow," says Tipton. "The world is your oyster."