Spain continues to reign as to top hotspot Scottish holidaymakers this summer despite a “massive” rise in those heading to non-EU destinations due to Brexit concerns.
Bookings to countries including Tunisia and Morocco were up by 70% in the January peak period while Egypt saw a 60% surge and Turkey 58% year-on-year, according to the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association.
Members of the association also report a large rise in winter sun business.
The UK’s planned exit from the EU at the end of March led to more Scottish travellers considering new destinations at the start of the year.
But, overall, mainland Spain has remained the number one destination of choice – with even more travellers booking deals after the agreement to extend the Brexit deadline to October.
SPAA vice-president Joanne Dooey said: “Operators predicted that there would be an increase in bookings to non-EU countries, so Spain has had some incredible deals this year.
“The Brexit extension is now starting to influence decisions, and we don’t think the amazing prices that we are currently seeing for Spain are going to last much longer.
“What we have been hearing from customers is that – despite all the reassurances about travel post-Brexit – they are still concerned about how it will affect them. That has resulted in an increase in bookings for places like Tunisia and Turkey, as well as long-haul destinations such as the USA and the Caribbean.
“When the negotiations were ongoing in the lead-up to the original exit date on March 29, a lot of customers were saying they just weren’t going to bother with a holiday this year or were going to leave it until later in 2019. Indeed, our members are reporting a massive increase in winter sun bookings.
“Now that the UK will not be leaving the EU until October, a lot of people are changing their minds and booking up for summer. That very warm spell of weather over the Easter weekend also gave Scots an appetite for sunshine and has influenced holiday plans.”
Added capacity by operators to destinations like Turkey and North Africa to meet rising demand has meant that prices have not been as competitive in these regions as in previous years. For example, an all-inclusive one-week holiday to a four-star hotel in the Antalya region of Turkey that cost £900 last year will now set holidaymakers back around £1,300.
Dooey said: “Spain will continue to offer good value for money, but we don’t think the very competitive deals currently available will last much longer. However, if you want to get a great deal then you should be looking at Greece where you can get an all-inclusive seven-night holiday for as little as £600 at the moment.
“Based on what customers are telling us, we understand that one of the other main reasons why they are looking at destinations outside the eurozone is because they want their pound to go further.
“The value of the pound against the euro has fallen ever since the result of the referendum was announced – whereas 500 Euros would have cost around £350 to buy before the UK announced it would leave the EU, that same amount now costs around £450.
“Due to the fact that inflation has not increased much, if at all, in most European resorts in recent years, there is nothing to suggest that Euros will not go as far as they once did on food, drink and activities. The main issue seems to be the value of the pound against the Euro, and concerns that it will fall even further. Travellers, understandably, want more bang for their buck.”