IT is back to work for most people across Europe on Monday, the summer is officially over, although the season will continue until the end of the school holidays within the next two weeks. While a third of workers returning to their offices tomorrow will suffer from post-vacational depression, the Balearic tourist industry will be able to look back at a good summer peak season, especially with regards to the British holiday market. The UK industry has enjoyed a bumper summer season and despite this year's booking period at the start of the year suffering from the war in Iraq and the outbreak of the SARs virus in Asia, those problems proved temporary and bookings returned to normal relatively quickly. Approximately 40 million holidays are being taken this year and over half are package holidays, confirming that the package holiday is far from dead in the UK. With regards to where the 40 million Britons are going, Spain, which last year attracted 10.7 million Britons, is still the most popular destination with the Balearics and the Canary Islands, Spain's top resorts. Majorca is in fact Britain's most visited holiday destination of all time, an average of 3.4 million Britons, mostly families, come here every year.
Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao are enjoying a short-break boom, primarily fuelled by the low-frills airlines while the deserted beaches of the Costa de la Luz and the sherry region around Jerez is becoming increasingly popular with the British. The Costas which kicked of mass market holidays over 30 years ago, still retain their beach appeal, but culture vultures also love the mainland, many combining beach holidays with visits to Cordoba, Seville and Grenada. This year, the British are Spain's top clients, followed by the French who have pushed the Germans into third place.
Nearly 30 million tourists have visited Spain during the first six months of the year and the British market alone was nearly ten per cent up in July on July 2002, setting Spain on course for a new tourism record by the end of this year. France is Britain's second favourite destination attracting seven million Britons last year, although that figure includes the tens of thousands of day-trippers. Again the no-frills airline industry has opened up a large number of new destinations in France, although camping and gite (private farmhouse) rentals are still proving popular. Britain's third most popular holiday destination is Greece, although this summer it has been receiving some poor publicity.
Neverthless, it will attract just over three million Britons with Corfu, Crete and Rhodes, home to the infamous resort of Faliraki, the top three destinations. The United States remains as popular as ever and Britain's number one long haul destination.
After the September 11 attacks, the US tourism bodies have invested a great deal of money in marketing campaigns with the theme parks and white sandy beaches of Florida proving massively popular, with many Britons returning year after year. Over 1.6 million Britons will be heading to Italy this year.
Lovers of art, music and architecture flock to Rome, Venice, Verona and Florence year after year, but its cuisine, lakes and mountains are also proving increasingly popular. Italy not only attracts the summer market, but also the winter market with some of the best ski resorts in Europe.
Closer to home, last year, the Irish Republic with its quiet and relaxed pace of life amongst friendly, hospitable people, replaced Portugal as the country's sixth most popular destination, attracting 1.5 million visitors from Britain. Portugal, with Lison and Oporto being very popular long weekend destinations as well as the Algarve being traditionally popular with the British, will be visited by 1.3 million Britons this year with a similar number heading to Cyprus. Cyprus is becoming a very popular all-year destination offering great value for money.
The Netherlands is also one of the UK's top ten holiday destinations; Amsterdam is still one of the most frequently visited cities in Europe.
Turkey, despite its proximity to Iraq with cancellations and a drop in bookings because of the Iraq War, its early summer holiday sales for May and June were healthy in the UK with the strong Pound making Turkey very good value for money. The Caribbean will attract over half a million Britons this year with Barbados the top destination.
This year's emerging “hot spot” destinations are Mexico with its diving, beaches and ancient civilisations providing something for everyone, Croatia, Bulgaria, Dubai and South Africa. However, more and more Britons are holidaying in Britain.
The British tourist board has invested in a multi-million pound campaign to promote Britain as a holiday destination for the British and this summer's heatwave made many think twice about booking a late overseas holiday - although it would appear that few Britons have decided against their holiday in Majorca this summer.