Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Sterling falls - will more Brits holiday at home?

It's a predictable, knee jerk reaction by my media colleagues. Sterling slides, recession bites, more Brits holiday at home. It doesn't work that way.

Holidays in Britain can be excellent value but they are rarely significantly cheaper than elsewhere.

A break in France last weekend reinforced this view. Dinner with wine, bed and breakfast at hotels in Boulogne and nearby Wimereux, cost a total of approximately £400. We drank aperitifs at both. On the second night - we were celebrating my wife's birthday - the bill also covered two "coupes" of champagne at £10 each and glasses of a sweet Gascon wine with dessert.

Though I am not, strictly, comparing like with like, a similar break at our favourite country house hotel in the UK would have set us back at least £60 - £70 more. Almost enough to cover the ferry fare.

In the shops, wine prices were clearly less attractive than at this time last year but still compared well even with the recent deals offered by UK supermarkets.

Even in the US, with the dollar soaring, most hotel and restaurant costs still compare favourably with those here. In Maine, a year ago, we were eating whole lobsters and sharing bottles of New Zealand sauvignon (for some reason NZ wines were in the ascendency) for around £35 or less, all in. Not once did the bill for two top £40. Even after a 25% deterioration in sterling's exchange value, the bill wouldn't come to more that about £45.

General nervousness about the economy and employment prospects are certain to affect travel spending next year.

But I believe the weakness of the £ is more likely to push travellers towards more modest holidays next year than to persuade them to substitute home for abroad.

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