The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has estimated that a record 2.4 million British holidaymakers are set to head overseas this weekend (21-23 July), which for the majority of schools in England and Wales marks the start of the summer holiday.
The Mediterranean dominates the market for families, and Spain remains the number one destination for the UK holiday market with the Balearic and Canary islands leading the way. However bookings to Portugal and Greece are also very strong. as is demand for Italy and France. ABTA Members are reporting strong growth for Bulgaria and Croatia and significant increases in interest for family friendly resorts.
For those heading further afield, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico have sold well with Florida remaining the number one long haul choice for families.
Domestic bookings are healthy, with travel agents and tour operators reporting strong demand to the West Country and seaside resorts. City breaks are always popular at this time of year for families looking to experience different cultures and architecture. European cities are leading the way, in particular Barcelona, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam.
Airports in the South East are expecting a very busy weekend with over 500,000 passengers expected to depart from Heathrow, 335,000 from Gatwick, 136,000 from Stansted and 85,000 from Luton.
150,000 are due to depart from Manchester, 70,000 from Birmingham and 55,000 from Bristol. Well over 100,000 will be leaving from Scottish airports with 70,000 from Glasgow alone.
Other regional airports, ports and the channel tunnel will also be extremely busy over the weekend with hundreds of thousands leaving the country. 58,000 holidaymakers are reported to be heading off to Paris and the South of France on Eurostar over the weekend.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “This weekend is the traditional curtain raiser for the family summer holidays and I am delighted to report that record numbers will be heading off on holiday this weekend. With so many people travelling, the roads, public transport and ports will be exceptionally busy so we would recommend that people factor a little extra time into their travel plans to avoid any stress or disappointment.”