Bad weather may drive UK "staycationers" abroad

Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:37pm EDT
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By Humeyra Pamuk

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Miserable summer weather and signs the economic slump may be bottoming out have led Britons to start looking at overseas holidays again as they ditch cheap but wet "staycations."

Three months ago, when the downturn was at its worst and the forecasts were for a hot British summer, all the talk was of holidaymakers staying at home for their vacations, saving money and enjoying a rare spot of British sunshine.

But industry experts say the tide looks to have turned.

"Staycations" were flavor of the month for a while, but with rain and clouds forecast for Britain in August -- the top holiday month -- people are doing what they can to get away.

"Members say things have started to pick up," said Sean Tipton, a spokesman for British travel association ABTA, referring to overseas holiday bookings.

"We expect a lot of people to book late," he said, with ABTA's network of 5,300 travel agencies hoping for a late surge in revenue.

"If you think about people's concerns about finances, like 'Is my job safe?', that does not really encourage people to book in advance. Now those concerns have eased a bit."

Sunny destinations such as Spain, Greece and Turkey are likely to be the winners in any late surge of bookings, after the Met Office, Britain's official weather forecaster, said the chances of seeing a hot and dry summer had faded.   Continued...

<p>Raindrops are seen on a beach shelter in Skegness, eastern England July 29, 2009. REUTERS/Darren Staples</p>