A travel insurance campaign has targeted the estimated 10 million holidaymakers who went abroad without the right cover last year.
As many as two in five British people who travelled abroad in the past 12 months did so without the right travel insurance, took part in activities which may not have been covered, or did not have any insurance at all.
Travel association ABTA, which carried out the research, has urged holidaymakers to double check they have travel insurance that covers their circumstances and the activities they are planning to do this summer.
While the average cost of a travel insurance claim is £1,296, the cost of medical treatment or repatriation can run into thousands of pounds. Without sufficient cover, many families are having to raise money for treatment or repatriation, with some resorting to crowdfunding.
The most common reason for not buying travel insurance was that people felt it wasn’t needed, often because they thought the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would provide sufficient cover. The EHIC only offers access to state medical care and does not include repatriation to the UK.
For almost one third of people who didn’t buy travel insurance, cost was a barrier and just over one in seven people (15%) said that they received insurance through their bank account.
ABTA is encouraging people who have travel insurance with their bank to check that it covers their requirements as there may be restrictions around age, health, destination and activities.
One in four British holidaymakers have also risked invalidating their insurance by not telling their insurance companies about pre-existing medical conditions or by taking part in activities without checking they were covered under the policy. Activities as seemingly safe as cycling may require a higher level of cover.
Holidaymakers also need to remember that popular holiday destinations like Turkey, Dubai, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, where thousands of Brits travel each year, will not be covered by a European policy.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “While many people are still choosing not to take out travel insurance at all, others are travelling unaware that their insurance policy is not protecting them as they expect.”
Millennials are reshaping the travel industry with their desire to explore Instagram-friendly destinations rich in culture and escapism.
They take more foreign holidays than any other age group and are seemingly more consumed by collecting experiences than they are owning goods.
The challenge for a travel industry desperately trying to court this Millennial generation is that these holiday exploits need to be uploadable, with the priority for many tourists on finding locations that deliver the perfect photos.
Thomas Cook highlighted this rise in “ego travel” in its 2018 Holiday Report. It said that social media posts were a factor when choosing a hotel for over half (52%) of 18-24 years olds during the booking process.
“Cool pictures on Instagram”
These changing priorities were highlighted by Thomas Cook’s recent decision to discontinue its Club 18-30 package holiday brand beyond this summer. It is focusing instead on the launch of a new brand called Cook’s Club, which offers popular DJs and upmarket cocktails.
Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said the brand was “aimed at attracting a different audience to Thomas Cook”, with clientele who “want to have fancy and cool pictures on Instagram”.
Some travel companies are now dedicated to selling trips based around the perfect holiday snaps. Others even have professional photographers on hand so holidaymakers can record their trips in the best possible fashion.
This also serves as an essential marketing tool for companies themselves as a reported 87% of Millennials look to social media for travel inspiration.
This quest for the perfect backdrop means Millennials are looking further afield and in different directions for their holidays.
For example, there’s been a significant uptick in interest in cruise holidays, with travel organisation ABTA reporting that one in ten holidaymakers between the ages of 18-24 were planning a cruise in 2018.
In terms of river cruising, that might mean visiting Instagram or Snapchat-worthy rivers such as the Danube, Rhine or Rhone. Many cruises now offer a “full on, activity packed, culturally enticing immersive travel experience”, with some sailings hosted by personalities from social media.
New holiday package travel regulations and a review into airline insolvency rules are set to boost protection for British holidaymakers.
Europe’s updated Package Travel Directive, which comes into force on 1 July 2018, will extend protection to flight-plus holidays where the customer chooses a combination of services via a single website, call centre or shop.
Under the current regime, buyers of traditional package holidays involving flights and accommodation purchased together are entitled to a refund or to be brought home should a travel company go under. These packages also provide additional legal protection, including the right to a refund if bad weather or industrial action means the holiday can’t be provided.
The rights will now be extended to travel where a combination of a flight plus hotel or car rental is put together on a website. This means it is no longer possible for online travel agents to claim each part of the holiday is separate and therefore not their responsibility.
UK travel industry impact
The EU’s updated Package Travel Directive was published in late 2015, with member states given until 1 January 2018 to adopt it as law before implementation on 1 July 2018. However, the UK version of the regulations was only published in April, giving the industry just over two months to prepare.
Under the existing travel regulations, travel association ABTA estimates that around half of UK holiday travel arrangements — 20 million packages and 3 million flight-plus holidays — are financially protected. From 1 July 2018, flight-plus arrangements will no longer exist and many will become packages.
ABTA pointed out that consumers not booking with an ABTA member will have to rely on UK trading standards if they are concerned a company they are dealing with is not providing the correct protection for travel arrangements.
Airline failure review
Meanwhile, the UK government has started a review of repatriation and refund protection in the event of an airline failure.
Options include allowing airlines to wind down in an orderly fashion so that they are able to conduct and finance repatriation operations with minimal or no government intervention. The review will also consider alternative models for refund protection, including through the travel insurance market.
The moves follow the collapse of Monarch Airlines last autumn, when the Civil Aviation Authority undertook the UK’s biggest peace time repatriation exercise bringing home 110,000 customers at an estimated cost of £60 million.
Holidaymakers are heading back to Tunisia and Turkey this summer following some challenging years for tourism in the two countries.
With improving security and the promise of cheaper holidays, destinations across the eastern Med and northern Africa; more specifically Tunisia and Turkey, look well placed to win back tourists put off by recent terrorism and political upheaval.
Tour operators have just restarted flights to Tunisia, while Turkey has seen a surge in bookings as confidence returns to one of the UK’s most popular destinations.
The developments should ease pressure on resorts in Spain and the western Med, where prices have risen as a result of higher demand.
Tunisia travel advice
Tunisia has been a popular tourist destination for decades, with its year-round sun and historic ruins. Thomas Cook, which first opened an office in the country in 1902, took more than 200,000 UK holidaymakers to Tunisia in 2014 across the summer and winter seasons.
That was until tragedy struck in June 2015 when a gunman killed 38 people at a beachfront hotel in Sousse, 30 of whom were British tourists.
Since the attack, the Tunisian government has improved protective security in major cities and tourist resorts, prompting the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to change its travel advice for Tunisia in July 2017.
With British holidaymakers able to travel to the majority of the country, Thomas Cook and TUI have restarted flight and hotel programmes for this summer.
Spain capacity squeeze
Turkey is also back on the radar for European tourists, with ABTA reporting recently that bookings for Turkey were up 69% for 2018. Egypt is also continuing on its road to recovery with a 24% increase in bookings.
In 2015 Turkey was the world’s fifth most visited tourist destination but 2016 saw bombings in Istanbul and Ankara followed by an attempted coup.
This had a knock-on impact on capacity in Spain and other destinations in the Western Med, leading to higher hotel prices and a shortage of availability.
Travel and tourism accounted for one in five of all new jobs created globally in 2017, according to major industry research.
The travel and tourism sector continues to outperform the global economy after new figures showed another trend-busting year in 2017.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) reported growth of 4.6% for 2017, which is 50% higher than the rate achieved by the global economy as a whole.
It’s the seventh year in a row that travel and tourism has outperformed, with 2017 setting a faster pace than manufacturing (4.2%), retail and wholesale (3.4%), agriculture, forestry and fisheries (2.6%) and financial services (2.5%).
Robust job creation
The research showed that the industry was responsible for the creation of seven million new jobs worldwide — equivalent to one in five globally.
Overall, travel and tourism made a contribution of US$8.3 trillion to global GDP (10.4%) and was responsible for 313 million jobs, 1 in 10 jobs around the world.
WTTC president Gloria Guevara said: “In the last few years, Governments around the world are realising the extraordinary benefits of tourism.”
In terms of 2018, the WTTC thinks that the strong growth will continue, albeit at a slower rate than in 2017 as a result of higher oil prices.
The long-term outlook to 2028 remains unchanged, with average growth of 3.8% per year expected over the next decade. By then, travel and tourism is expected to support more than 400 million jobs globally — 1 in 9 of all jobs in the world.
Europe’s performance in 2017 was better than expected with 4.8% growth as long-haul demand recovered strongly. There was a strong rebound in North Africa, growing by 22.6% in 2017, while South East Asia rose 6.7%.
China continues to lead the way in Asia at 9.8%. Over the next ten years, the WTTC estimates that over one third of absolute GDP growth and nearly half of employment growth will be generated by China and India.
European river cruising is seeing a surge in popularity, driven by new vessels and itineraries targeting millennial passengers.
A different type of cruise experience along the rivers of Europe is helping to blow away the perception that these trips are the preserve of older generations.
In keeping with efforts to broaden the appeal of cruising, operators are serving up trips aimed at millennial and Generation Xers who want to visit Instagram or Snapchat-worthy rivers such as the Danube, Rhine or Rhone.
These more active trips combine scenery and city tours with activities such as rock climbing, while on board there are rooftop bars and international DJs.
According to travel industry body ABTA, river cruising has become the fastest-growing sector of the worldwide cruise market, thanks partly to the introduction of new vessels and facilities to rival those found on ocean liners.
New arrivals include U by Uniworld, whose first cruises aimed at the 21 to 45 age group depart this spring. Billed as the best way to experience Europe, they promise a “full on, activity packed, culturally enticing immersive travel experience”.
Amadeus is another company going after the millennial market, with its six-day sailings in 2019 due to be hosted by a well-known person from social media.
Technology to match
But new initiatives in the river cruise market are not just aimed at millennials. For example, more cruises are being planned in 2018 to tap into the popularity of visiting Christmas markets along Europe’s Danube and Rhine rivers.
This broader range of activities explains why 14% of UK holidaymakers are planning on taking a cruise in 2018 — almost double the number that went on one in the previous 12 months. More than one in ten holidaymakers between the ages of 18-24 are planning a cruise this year, the ABTA research added.
But in order to appeal to the next generation of holidaymakers, cruise operators need to ensure they have the technology to match the scenery, which is why leading liners are investing heavily in lightning fast wi-fi across their fleets.
Holidaymakers are being enticed further afield as legacy airlines and newer carriers compete for business in the low cost, long-haul market.
The wider availability of budget flights means that travellers can now visit New York or even Singapore for the same price as a trip to the Mediterranean.
These broader horizons reflect a new battleground in mainstream air travel, with the Centre for Aviation reporting the launch of 15 long-haul low cost airlines between 2012 and last summer.
They include all three main European groups — Air France KLM, British Airways owner IAG and Lufthansa — as they bid to target millennial passengers, who are typically more focused on achieving value for money.
The legacy airlines are keen to bridge the gap between budget and traditional carriers, with Air France recently launching Joon to serve a mixture of long and short haul destinations. The new operation sees flight attendants wear smart casual attire, while its aircraft have wi-fi on board and USB charging points.
The budget long-haul sector has just passed 500,000 weekly seats for the first time, although this still only represents about 0.5% of the global market.
But with fuel-efficient aircraft making longer journeys more attractive and comfortable, many low cost operators are planning rapid growth for 2018. Norwegian is starting direct flights from London Gatwick to Buenos Aires, while TUI has expanded its long-haul capacity with the addition of new aircraft.
The trends are being felt across the airline sector, prompting easyJet to launch a new booking platform so customers can connect to other low cost airlines flying from Gatwick to North and South America and the Far East.
Gatwick, which is easyJet’s largest base, is benefiting from this rising demand as it becomes one of the busiest long-haul low cost airports in the world. About 7.3 million passengers travelled long-haul from Gatwick in 2017, with its growth in this part of the market up by 16% year-on-year in December 2017.
It’s been 20 years since self-service kiosks arrived in airport departure halls. Now the latest versions are using biometrics and robotics to enhance the passenger experience.
Having first appeared as a trial for Air Alaska in 1997, self-service kiosks have evolved into much more than just a means for self-service check-in.
Now airside as well as landside, they can be used for bag tagging, lost baggage tracking, flight transfers, and border control. They are also a way to pay for flights, upgrades, meals, and even media downloads for the flight.
But SITA, which provides IT and telecommunications services to the air transport industry, says there’s much more to come from its kiosk technology.
Soon passengers will be able to use kiosks that capture their biometrics via a facial scan at the first touch point in the journey.
Once checked against the passenger’s travel documents, a secure single token is created. Whether it’s at self bag drop, at border control or aircraft boarding, facial scanning removes the need to show a passport or boarding card.
The system also integrates with government systems and databases, allowing integrated immigration and border checks. Air New Zealand passengers were the first to use the SITA technology in a trial at Brisbane Airport in March.
As well as the first walkthrough airport experience, SITA is working on kiosks that can be deployed where and when they are needed most.
This is particularly important during periods of disruption when additional kiosks may be needed airside to check in large numbers of rebooked passengers.
That’s resulted in the creation of KATE, an intelligent, robotic check-in kiosk that will give airports and airlines much greater flexibility. Multiple robotic kiosks can be automatically or manually deployed simultaneously and in formation to help passengers.
Rico Barandun, portfolio director at SITA, said IT has changed air travel out of all recognition: “The humble kiosk has been a key part of that change, and it is now evolving further. So next time you see a handful of kiosks moving by themselves around the airport, don’t be surprised.”
Responsible tourism is now a big consideration for holidaymakers, fuelled by programmes such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II.
One of the big themes identified in ABTA’s Travel Trends Report for 2018 is the growing role that responsible tourism plays in shaping holiday choices.
ABTA research shows that almost 70% of people believe that travel companies should ensure their holidays help the local people and economy.
This rise in sentiment follows wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ — the most watched programme of 2017 — and campaigns including Sky News’ Ocean Rescue Scheme. Greater public awareness also extends to human rights and working conditions.
Tour operators, hoteliers and destinations have made positive progress on responsible tourism, with ABTA expecting more initiatives to follow in 2018.
These are likely to include social enterprise projects which give back to local communities, carbon-neutral group tours and the banning of plastics from beaches.
The welfare of animals in tourism has also become a mainstream issue, with Thomas Cook committing to removing animal excursions such as elephant rides and swimming with dolphins from their activities list.
Virgin Holidays also announced it will no longer sell or promote any new attractions or hotels that feature captive whales and dolphins.
Destinations to watch
Elsewhere in the travel trends report, ABTA paints a positive outlook for the tourism industry in 2018. It quotes GfK figures showing summer demand up 5% on last year, with people booking early in order to take advantage of discounts and ensure they get their choice of destination or resort at the right price.
Three-in-ten also say they plan to spend an increased amount on travel, up 6% from last year, while it also appears there’s an increased willingness to prioritise holidays over eating out and entertainment.
ABTA also named its 12 ‘destinations to watch’ in 2018. They have been chosen for their ease of accessibility for British tourists or because they are a well-known destination with hidden gems.
They are Argentina, Arizona, British Columbia, Germany, Malta, Montenegro, Nepal, New Zealand, Rwanda, St Lucia, Sweden and Turkey.
Some popular tourist destinations are victims of their own success as “overtourism” starts to become a real problem.
Mass tourism brings many benefits, but for crowded cities such as Amsterdam and Venice the sheer number of visitors is now an issue requiring action.
A report by Euromonitor ranking the top 100 City Destinations on behalf of World Travel Market London has revealed the overcrowding hotspots and highlighted the fine line between successful tourism and overtourism.
For example, Amsterdam has 850,000 residents but last year attracted 6.34 million visitors. This figure is expected to have grown by 3.6% to 6.57 million in 2017 and may rise again to 6.8 million in 2020 and 7.5 million in 2025.
Officials in the Dutch capital are now considering plans to charge tourists an extra 10 euros a night as part of a drive to dissuade low-spending visitors, including younger tourists and those on stag weekends.
Amsterdam’s city councillor responsible for finance, Udo Kock, said: “We need more people who actually spend money in the city.”
In Venice, there’s a growing campaign among residents to restrict cruise visits following a huge influx of tourists. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has expressed ‘extreme concern’ about the impact of tourism on Venice’s historical sites and in May it threatened to put Venice on its danger list.
Daily passenger limit
The Greek island of Santorini, which was visited by 790,000 cruise ship passengers in 2015, has already introduced a daily limit of 8,000 disembarkations. There have also been protests in some Spanish resorts and cities about the impact of private holiday rentals on the housing market.
This resulted in authorities on the Balearic Islands recently placing a cap on the number of beds that can be used for tourists.
World Travel Market London director Simon Press said: “Tourism is important to local and national economies and many destinations have worked hard to attract visitors over the years.
“Yet some are now becoming victims of their own success and overtourism is starting to become a real problem.”