What people really want from a festive getaway

By Dave Cruickshank, CEO of Atcore

New York at Christmas

Traditionally, Christmas has always been a time to stay at home and spend time with family. A lot has changed over the last two decades, and the once homebird nature of those celebrating during the festive season is a thing of the past, with many instead now choosing to literally take flight in the holiday season.

In fact, since 2005, total year-end travel has increased by 25%. The task for travel companies is figuring out hot to make the most of this growing demand over an increasingly busy period.

Providing the inspiration and delivering the dream

Throughout the rest of the year, those booking holidays will typically look to a broad destination before adding extras such to compliment it – like visiting Cancun and swimming with turtles, or going to the south of France and taking a trip to a vineyard.

However, at Christmas this is reversed, and the entire reason for going abroad is driven by activities – Christmas markets or a visit to Father Christmas. As a result, holidays in the festive season can become stressful and expensive to organise perfectly.

To address this, travel booking companies need to be able to offer an integrated reservation system that teams inspiration with functionality and performance – allowing them to book everything in one place. In turn, through offering ease of use and peace of mind for the customer, providers are rewarded for these efforts with increased revenue.

Cologne Cathedral market

Similarly to other seasons, travel during the festive period has its favourites. Last year saw a 62% increase in bookings for skiing holidays, 465,000 tourists visited Lapland in December 2017, and a year prior to that, Iceland witnessed a 42.4% increase in tourism during the winter.

The allure of the Northern Lights and early season slopes is strong, but Christmas markets also prove highly popular at this time of year. The Cologne Cathedral market in Germany, for example, is expected to attract over 4 million visitors this December alone.

Millennials are losing interest in the materialistic delights sat under the tree on 25 December, and have instead developed a taste for experiences. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in flights closer to Christmas as people look to make the most of their week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and Heathrow will see 1,188,741 people arrive and depart between 21 and 25 December.

Whether they’re following tradition or trends, anyone looking to escape over the festive period will have an array of different sources for their inspiration, from social media, blogs, TV or family.

However, as the digital world continues to shape how we work, the most successful travel companies of the future will maximise this rich content whilst having the breadth of product and availability to be able to deliver on even the most adventurous festive travel plans into 2019 and beyond. Travel providers need to ensure they can  facilitate the inspiration whilst also catering to the desires as much as they can, but where are people heading?

Skiing resorts

Zermatt, Switzerland

What was previously a luxury getaway for the more well-off parts of the population, skiing holidays have gradually become more affordable over the last couple of decades.

Whether you’re heading to Val D’Isere or Zermatt, catching the early season slopes towards the end of December presents an opportunity like no other in the hunt for a white Christmas. Few activities give the festive feel quite like a roaring fire in a snow-covered chalet, and people continue to make the most of it.

Christmas markets and festive escapes

There are over 150 Christmas markets in Germany alone – each one containing more stalls than you can shake a bratwurst at, and this isn’t exclusive to one single country. From Leuven to Vienna, and Edinburgh to Strasbourg, there are countless markets across the whole of Europe, each offering a slightly different spin on the most festive atmospheres filled with mulled wine and Christmas trinkets.

Arguably, all of these little Christmas breaks can be described as ‘festive escapes’, but the most ;Christmassy’ of getaways need a mention of their own. There are some incredible corners of the world offering once in a lifetime opportunities, with many heading to Lapland in the northern reaches of Finland in hunt of reindeer and Santa’s village (which does actually exist!), or making their way to Iceland, hoping to get a gimpse of the Aurora Borealis and unwind in ice bars.

Lapland, FInland

Nothing says Christmas quite like snow, sleighs and St. Nick – and, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights! And the numbers are increasing impressively, in fact in 2016, overnight stays in Lapland by foreign travelers increased by 18%, to a total of 2.6 million.

New Year city breaks

The festive season is somewhat capped off by the turn of the year. Cities all over the world celebrate New Year’s in various unique ways, and as part of that growing desire for experiences. According to ABTA research, last year saw over half the British population taking city breaks – and New Year’s celebrations are a perfect excuse to escape.

Why not venture further afield than watching the fireworks on the TV, and instead visit the pyrotechnic paradise of Amsterdam? New Year’s Eve in Venice is met with thousands of strangers willingly kissing each other, and Madrid’s is celebrated with a dozen grapes for good luck (one for each month of the year). There are thousands of yearly traditions around the world – why settle for the same thing every year?

Above all, while for many, Christmas and New Year is a family affair, as a whole, we’re starting to look at mixing up traditions and travelling further afield for the festive season. What better way to escape the stresses of everyday life and cap off the year with a new adventure.

The challenge facing travel companies is providing this inspiration whilst having the breadth of product and reservation platform to deliver the ever more diverse seasonal travel plans.

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