20 Feb

ABTA renews call to consider staggering school holiday dates by region

Ahead of parliamentary debate, 85% of ABTA Members support proposal to look at staggering holidays

Ahead of a parliamentary debate on holiday pricing during the school holidays next Monday 24th February, ABTA – the Travel Association is renewing its call for staggering school holidays by region to be considered as an option to help alleviate the pressure of peak holiday demand.

ABTA has called for key stakeholders – schools, Local Education Authorities, and Government – to look at staggering the dates of school holidays and believes staggering by region, a model which is used by a number of other European countries, will offer the best potential solution to help relieve the pressure of peak demand during the summer school holiday and the February half-term in particular.

In a new poll conducted among ABTA Members*, 85% supported proposals to consider staggering school term dates by region, with respondents calling this a ‘logical and sensible approach to the problem’ and ‘the most sensible option’ which would help ‘reduce the spike in demand’. A number of respondents also noted that consumers would benefit from greater availability and choice of holiday if staggering were implemented.

Holiday pricing during the school holidays is driven by supply and demand factors. More people in the UK and across Europe want to take holidays in July and August, and at half-term breaks; therefore prices will typically rise during these times as there is increased demand for a finite number of flight seats and hotel rooms. ABTA has advised consumers, through initiatives such as its “Early Bird" campaign that the best way to get an affordable holiday, with the greatest choice, is to book early.

Respondents also noted the impact of changes last year to regulations that allowed individual schools to use discretion to grant term time absences, as well as expressing concerns over the potential impact of any moves to reducing the length of school holidays overall.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “This poll shows that the industry is concerned about the issue and that it is committed to a constructive dialogue and to finding a workable solution to help alleviate some of the pressure around periods of extremely high demand that can result in higher prices.  Our discussions with Parliamentarians in recent weeks make clear that MPs understand the way pricing works, and appreciate that the travel industry is highly competitive; our hope therefore is that Monday’s debate in Parliament will focus on considering staggering school holiday dates as an option that merits further review and consideration. It remains the case that booking early is the best way for consumers to secure an affordable holiday, with the greatest choice.”

*ABTA Members were polled between 17th-19th February 2014

The Westminster Hall Debate on Monday comes following a public e-petition ‘Stop Holiday Companies charging Extra in School Holidays’. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills responded to this e-petition with the following statement: “In a competitive market it is for business to decide the market worth of their products and to price accordingly. In the holiday market there is fierce competition for custom. Prices rises in peak periods are a reflection of the international competition holiday companies face for hotel accommodation and other services in destinations which are popular with consumers from many other countries and where there are limits to capacity. These consumers also wish to holiday during these peak periods. We are advised also that holiday companies must seek to make a reasonable profit during the peak periods so that they are able to operate throughout the year when demand and therefore prices and profits are lower”