The rise of the short break - has cheap travel signalled the end of the traditional two-week holiday?
Cheap and hassle-free travel has bolstered the popularity of whistle-stop city breaks and quick trips. Tourism correspondent LAUREN COPE looks at the move towards short breaks - and asks whether they are sounding the death knell for the traditional two-week getaway.
While two thirds of domestic trips taken in England last year were classed as short breaks, the Office for National Statistics said the average holiday length for UK residents heading out of the country in 2015 remained fairly high, at 10 nights.
Although not far off the two-week mark, they put the figure down to the “popularity of shorter breaks taken more frequently during this year” and said the average duration of breaks in Europe was shorter, at eight nights.
Visit Britain said 29 million breaks of one to three nights were booked last year, accounting for £5.9bn of the £10.7bn domestic holiday market value. Families and couples on short breaks spent an average of £104 per night and £201 for the whole trip.
Meanwhile, 14.5 million holidays of four nights or longer were taken, generating £4.9bn in expenditure.
Before the turn of the millennium, poring over holiday brochures for a two-week summer getaway was a ritual savoured by families across the region.
But the rise of the no-frills airline industry and cut-rate online deals has lessened the upfront costs of getting away, making multiple holidays affordable and – coupled with a finite amount of annual leave – pushing forward a move towards short breaks.
Over the last five years, airlines including British Airways and EasyJet have reported soaring bookings for weekend breaks, while in 2011 the National Trust estimated fortnight holidays had already declined by 20%.
Last year, breaks of one to three nights contributed billions to the economy and made up two-thirds of domestic holidays taken in England – a national trend which is reflected in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Lowestoft-based holiday firm Hoseasons has seen a surge in demand for short getaways, with countrywide bookings for three or four nights jumping by 16% so far this year on the same period last year.
Managing director Simon Altham said they were booked both instead of longer holidays, and as a way to supplement them.
“These figures clearly show that our customers’ holiday habits are changing,” he added.
“Many are working longer and harder, so it’s easy to see why taking several UK short breaks that allow them to relax, recharge and catch up with family or friends, is becoming so appealing.”
Short-break bookings in the eastern region in particular have risen by 11% on last year, while the number of customers enjoying more than one holiday with Hoseasons is up 12% on last year. Mr Altham used breaks taken over the recent Whitsun half-term as an example – bookings were up 28% on last year.
Meanwhile, Barbara Greasley of Broads Tours said holidays of a fortnight or longer made up just 5% of this year’s bookings so far, but that one-week holidays remained popular with repeat customers.
So far this year, short breaks have accounted for 34% of bookings, with one-week holidays making up 58% and breaks between eight and 11 days at 3%.
Mrs Greasley said the pattern change could leave some businesses with more work on their hands – but could also bring the potential for a financial boost.
“For some businesses it is actually quite good to have to short breaks because you can spread your workload out and, for example, give more work to cleaners as there’s another change-over day,” she added.
“For us, a short break is 70% of the cost of a week, so the revenue generated is more – although there is a lot more work to turn them around twice rather than the once.”
Earlier this month, holiday lettings agency Cottages.com reported a 20% rise in breaks of three or four nights in Suffolk, with particular hotspots including Southwold and Aldeburgh.
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