By Humphrey Carter PALMA

THE Association of British Travel Agents, ABTA's Travel Trends 2011 Report says that against a harsh economic backdrop, British travellers will continue to seek value for money in 2011 and Spain is going to be very much back in favour.

Seventy-four per cent of travellers believe that the greatest value for money – but not necessarily the lowest prices, is an essential or important booking element.

As the Bulletin has been reporting over the past few months, there has definitely been a swing in the market with bookings for Spain, and in particular the Balearics, for summer 2011 up between nine and 20 percent, although the crunch time will be the January holiday sales period.

Non-eurozone destinations will continue to provide stiff competition but ABTA forecasts that enthusiasm for Britain's favourite short haul destinations in Europe is also set to be reignited, as it is likely that the pound will finally rally against the euro in 2011.

According to ABTA research, over three-quarters of UK consumers holidayed in the 12 month period to September 2010.
In this period, UK residents took an average of 3.2 holidays; 2 in the UK and 1.2 abroad. When enjoying a domestic holiday, the most common length of stay is between 1 and 3 nights; however, for holidays abroad, the length of stay is most commonly 7 nights or more.

And, generally, consumers have proved remarkably positive about their holiday experience, with 85% not having had any problems to report in the previous five years. Customer experience and service will really prove a company's value for money credentials in 2011.

But, “Value for money” has become the rallying cry of travellers, and the travel industry – particularly ABTA members realise that providing good customer service and experience can clinch bookings. An ABTA survey in September found that when booking a holiday 74% of consumers believe that the greatest value for money, but not necessarily the lowest prices, is an essential or important booking element. 2011 will see a further rise in the importance of customer experience and service as a key decider in customer choice.

2011 will continue to see an increase in customers choosing shorter duration and all-inclusive holidays to help manage budgets.
Clearly value for money and good prices will continue to be important in 2011, but holidaymakers also want to be able to trust the companies they book with as ABTA's survey found that when consumers were asked to consider the importance of different elements when booking a holiday, ABTA membership was considered to be essential or important by 71% of consumers, while a similar proportion believed that financial protection was identified as essential.

And, more importantly, ABTA considers Spain, Britain's “favourite destination” is going to have a “hot year” in 2011. In the wars over price, certain accommodation and local service providers have lowered their costs to try and draw some of the business being won by non-euro spots like Turkey and Egypt.

There has also been a rise in awareness of the product on offer away from the coast, with discerning travellers in particular now being presented with more options to explore the world-class attributes both urban and rural.

2011 can also look forward to some increased flight capacity from the UK to Spain.
The much needed extra flights from Scotland will be provided by from Glasgow and Edinburgh, while many Spanish destinations including Majorca, which suffered badly from route cuts last year, will see some capacity put back on during the winter. “And while certain parts of the travel industry are in flux, Spain's main draws - its weather, its beaches, its culture and its food - remain as constant as ever,” ABTA says in its annual report.