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UK holidays cost up to four times the price of European getaways

Written by: Emma Lunn
Holidaymakers can pay £631 for seven nights in Lake Garda, Italy, while a week in Lake Windermere would cost £2,381.

Researchers for Which? looked at how the price of UK holidays compared to the cost of similar European getaways. It found that holidays to some British destinations currently cost hundreds of pounds more than trips to Europe, even when airfares are factored in.

According to the consumer champion, costs for private holiday accommodation in the UK have increased by 41% on average since 2019.

More people have been staying in the UK for their summer holidays this year on account of ever-changing international travel restrictions, leading to complaints about the high cost of UK holidays and the risk of prices being disproportionately inflated in the face of increased demand.

Which? looked at the average cost of private holiday rentals, hotels and of taking a holiday in various popular UK destinations with comparable locations overseas. In almost every case it found that taking a holiday in the UK was more expensive.

Lake Garda vs Lake District

When Which? looked at the cost of seven nights this August in a highly rated hotel in Lake Garda, Italy, it was nearly a quarter of the price of a comparable holiday in the Lake District. Seven nights’ accommodation for two people in Lake Garda cost £631, while seven nights’ accommodation in Lake Windermere would cost £2,381.

The consumer champion also calculated transport costs for each holiday. The average UK resident travels 310 miles for their UK holiday, which works out at £43 in petrol costs. Even though this is far cheaper than the £171 for return flights to Italy for two, the total cost of a holiday in Lake Windermere was still more than £1,600 more expensive than Lake Garda.

Which? also found that a seaside holiday in Nice, France, was cheaper than an equivalent holiday to Brighton. Which? found that seven nights’ accommodation in a highly rated hotel in Nice would cost £679, while the same seven nights in Brighton would cost £1,088.

Despite return flights to Nice costing £406, the total cost of the Brighton holiday for two adults was still higher than the Nice holiday, at £1,131 compared to £1,085.

The only holiday Which? found for this August that worked out cheaper in the UK than abroad was a beach break in Tenby, Wales, compared to Estepona, on the Costa del Sol in Spain – but only by £10.

The accommodation in Tenby was still more expensive than Estepona, costing £880 for seven nights in Tenby compared to £837 for seven nights in a similarly rated hotel in Estepona.

Transport costs made the Tenby break marginally cheaper though, with travel in the UK being estimated at £43, while return flights to Estepona would cost about £96.

Hotel prices

While the pandemic is partly responsible for driving the cost of UK holidays up, Which? found that even before Covid the UK was already among the most expensive holiday destinations in Europe.

According to data from Kayak, the average nightly rate of three-star and four-star hotels in the UK in 2019 was £109 – 21% more expensive than Spain, 35% more than Portugal and 79% more than Malta, on average.

Even though hotel prices in the UK dropped by an average of 13% last year due to the pandemic, prices in many other European countries dropped as much or more.

For example, in Greece, prices dipped by 20% in 2020, and a hotel room would have cost £71 on average.

Which? also looked at the cost of private accommodation. It found that increased demand has led to significant price increases over the course of the pandemic, and that private accommodation is more expensive in the UK than in other countries.

Data from AirDNA shows that across the whole of the UK self-catered accommodation in August 2021 costs 41% more on average than it did in 2019. This works out at roughly the equivalent of an extra £300 per week.

Between August 2019 and 2021, the cost of private accommodation in Marmaris, Turkey, increased by just 7%, while in Corfu, Greece, prices only increased by 13%.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “Holidaying at home has always been expensive, but the situation has become far worse during the pandemic and it’s no wonder many people have felt priced out of a holiday this year.

“The reasons for these higher prices are complex, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that some unscrupulous accommodation providers are charging over the odds.

“The good news is that there are ways to save on UK holidays. By looking just a few miles down the road from the most popular destinations or travelling out of peak holiday season, holidaymakers can significantly reduce the cost of their trip.”

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