17 Dec

Five million Brits head abroad for the Great Christmas and New Year Getaway 

ABTA – The Travel Association estimates that as many as five million passengers* are heading abroad over the Christmas and New Year period, with Friday the 23 December set to be the busiest day for departures and Christmas Day the quietest. 

This time of year is one of the most popular times for overseas travel, particularly for those with young families looking to spend quality time together and make special memories.

Holidaymakers are looking for winter sun or a traditional snowy Christmas. For those looking for warmth and sunshine, ABTA Members are reporting strong demand for the Canary Islands, Southern Spain, Turkey, Portugal and Egypt and further afield, Jamaica, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Dubai and Mexico. 

For a more traditional Christmas experience in a snowy destination, the ski resorts of France and Switzerland lead the way and ABTA Members have reported strong demand in the first full winter sports season after three years of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Some very lucky children will be heading off on specialist package holidays to see Father Christmas and his elves in Lapland.

For party lovers looking to celebrate the turn of the new year in style, the most popular overseas city break destinations this year include New York, Paris, Amsterdam, and Dublin. 

The Christmas getaway in numbers

Millions of people will be leaving the country through the UK’s major airports, which are reporting high numbers. A snapshot shows that 640,000 are set to depart from Stansted, 470,000 from Luton, in addition to around 500,000 leaving from Manchester, 175,000 from Bristol and hundreds of thousands through Gatwick. Heathrow expects over three million passengers, both arriving and departing, to travel through the airport in the last two weeks of December.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers will be leaving from Scottish airports, with 296,000 travelling through Edinburgh alone, as well as from other regional airports. 

A significant number of people are also travelling across the English Channel by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel. 

ABTA is encouraging people to plan ahead for their journeys and leave a little extra time to get to their departure port without unnecessary stress and with train strikes scheduled, some prior planning is essential.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said:  

“Christmas and New Year are always very busy times for travel and this year will be very special as millions have the first opportunity after travel restrictions have lifted to spend quality time with friends and family abroad over the festive period. 

“ABTA Members are delighted to enable people to fulfil their dreams of travel over Christmas. We also know that once the immediate festivities are out of the way, many people will be thinking about their holidays for 2023. Early booking is always advisable to avoid disappointment, get the best prices and have something to look forward to, especially at busy times of year, and our Members are on hand to help people get the best value break for next year.”

Notes to editors
*Source is ABTA’s consumer sentiment research, conducted in October 2022 by The Nursery Research and Planning (www.the-nursery.net/) with a nationally representative sample of 500 consumers. Of the 30% of people who said they have a holiday abroad booked for some time in the next 12 months, 25% said they would be travelling during the Christmas break. Therefore, based on the ONS 2020 GB population estimate of 67 million, an estimated five million people will be travelling during the Christmas break.

About ABTA
ABTA is a trade association for UK travel agents, tour operators and the wider travel industry. We’re the largest travel trade body, with over 3,900 travel brands in Membership who have a combined pre-pandemic annual UK turnover of £40 billion. We work closely with our Members to help raise and maintain standards and build a more sustainable travel industry, and provide travellers with advice, guidance and support.

Our Members sign up to a code of conduct and commit to agreed service standards and fair trading. When you need clear travel information, and accurate and impartial advice relating to your trip, we’re here for you. We’ll help you understand your level of financial protection, and what to do next, in the unlikely event that an ABTA Member goes out of business. So whatever happens, when you book with an ABTA Member, reliable advice comes as standard.  This means that booking with our Members brings peace of mind. Together with our Members, we help you travel with confidence. www.abta.com