As the festive season draws to a close and the new year is just around the corner, research shows that millions of us will have spent much of the Christmas holidays searching for our next break in the sun. According to leading holiday brands Thomson and First Choice, the peak time for holiday searches on Christmas Day is at around 8.30pm, just hours after the turkey has gone cold and the last cracker pulled. Last year a staggering 110,000 of us chose to skip charades and endless repeats on TV, instead of searching for the perfect sunshine break online.
As the New Year approaches and Thomson and First Choice’s retail and call centre teams are gearing up to help millions of customers find their perfect break, the holiday company predicts what’s hot for 2015…
Short and mid-haul beach destinations such as Spain, Greece and Turkey continue to remain firm favourites with Brits looking for short flight times, high standards of accommodation and glorious beaches.
However, the arrival of the 787 Dreamliner makes long haul flying more comfortable and easier than ever. With a boom in long haul travelling, there are a number of new destinations, which are emerging as the ‘hot’ places to go in 2015.
- Costa Rica – Green and lush Costa Rica is an adventure lover’s paradise. From November 2015 Thomson Airways is launching a new weekly service from Gatwick to exotic Costa Rica, which will be the only direct flight from the UK.
- Aruba – white sandy beaches, gable topped houses, ramshackle bars serving fresh fish and cocktails, Aruba’s Dutch roots set it apart from other Caribbean islands.
- Bonaire – one of the best dive and snorkelling destinations in the world. Shipwrecks, tropical fish and seahorses are ripe in the waters that surround the island.
- Curacao – a mix of footprint-free beaches and pretty colonial town, this little colonial island in the Caribbean are slowly beginning to creep onto the tourist radar.
- Goa, India – EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is taking this chilled out beach resort by storm, and this New Year sees the return of the globally famous Sunburn festival, making it one of the hippest places to holiday next year. From November 2015 Thomson is adding 10 and 11 night holidays to Goa departing from Gatwick.
Short and mid-haul…
- Iceland – famous for boiling mud pools, spurting geysers, glaciers and waterfalls, Thomson has recently announced that it will be offering three or four-night breaks to Iceland from January 2016.
- Dalmatian Coast, Croatia – situated along Croatia’s Adriatic coast is home to clear waters, secluded coves and enchanting towns, including the vibrant city of Split, Dalmatian Coast is the place to go next summer for a short-haul beach holiday.
- Mykonos and Santorini – with boutique hotels, luxury villas and label-laden shops, stylish Mykonos and Santorini are Greece’s answer to St-Tropez.
- Cyprus – a popular destination for years, attracting everyone from families to clubbers, Cyprus has invested heavily in tourism in recent years putting it firmly back on the list of ‘must visit’ holiday destinations next year.
- Ibiza – regarded as the cool and hip party capital of the Med, Ibiza is fast becoming the fashionable destination for families looking for great accommodation in a laid back setting.
All of the above destinations will be available in 2015, either by direct flight from the UK or as part of Thomson Cruises’ programme.
In the longer term, Thomson Airways is currently considering expanding its operations to offer direct flights east from the UK to the stunningly beautiful Vietnam and lush and cultural Malaysia on its new 787 Dreamliner fleet. To the west, it is looking at direct flights to the Eastern Caribbean to St Lucia and Antigua, and to Bonaire and Curacao in the Antilles.
WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY AND VIRTUAL REALITY ARE NO LONGER FUTURISTIC
2014 saw mobile technology become ‘the norm’ as a way to search and book a holiday. 28% of all of Thomson and First Choice’s online bookings made between January and October 2014 were on mobile technology (smartphones and tablets). Rich and highly tailored content can now be accessed through all devices making it a quick and easy way to book.
In 2015 Thomson predicts that the real technology game-changer will be Wearable Technology, and will be trialling this latest innovation both in the UK and overseas early next year. With the launch of the iWatch in early 2015, wearable technology will explode onto the travel scene with smartwatch apps significantly enhancing the holiday experience. At the airport, wearable boarding passes will allow travellers to board their flight with a flick of a wrist, whilst in the resort, they will be able to access local information, get the latest weather reports and book excursions. Holiday advisors will also able to access a wealth of information, communicate with their resort office and the UK as well as make bookings, all from the back of their wrists.
State-of-the-art Virtual Reality technology will bring the high street experience to life, allowing customers to have a personalised, inspiring and highly immersive experience in retail stores. Virtual Reality technology and high-quality interactive displays will allow customers to really feel the holiday experience and tailor the choices down to the finest of detail.
iBeacons, small Bluetooth transmitters that push out information to nearby iPhone users, will also be widely used by travel companies. Holidaymakers can receive information and guidance at key points in their journey, alerting them to gate numbers, retail offers and queues and delays in the airport, as well as hotel and resort information once on holiday.
HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE STARTS WITH THE FLIGHT
Advances in technology and inflight services mean that 2015 will also see Thomson Airways trial a number of initiatives that will bring the holiday experience to life on the aircraft, helping customers plan their trips from 43,000 feet and seamlessly connect the crew with the overseas holiday teams.
On-board kids’ club will bring Thomson and First Choice childcare expertise to the skies with a fully trained member of the crew to help parents keep the kids entertained with arts, crafts and quizzes that relate to the destination.
In addition, Thomson Airways will be trialling on-board HolidayMakers on selected short and mid-haul flights. These are members of the resort team who are experts on the destination who can offer advice and recommendations to customers.
Inflight entertainment will be modernised as new content and channels designed specifically for holidaymakers including a bedtime story channel for little ones, bespoke teenage content and destination inspiration channels on long-haul.
The airline’s cabin crew are also currently trialling iPads so that it can offer more personalised customer service, share destination information and pass special requests and information over to the resort team for seamless customer experience.
INCREASE IN CHILD-FREE HOLIDAYS FOR PARENTS
While millions of Brits enjoy their annual holiday with their children, research by Thomson showed a trend towards stressed out parents enjoying holidays as a couple, leaving their children at home with friends or family. 34% of parents of children under 18 already take child-free holidays and of those who currently holiday with their children, 57% said that given the chance, they’d go away without them.
As a result, Thomson is expanding its adult-only Couples collection for 2015 following a 46% increase in bookings in the last two years fuelled by a surge in demand from worn-out parents taking holidays without their children. The rise of hands-on grandparenting is also easing the burden on stressed-out parents, with over half (52%) leaving their offspring with their own parents while they enjoy some quality time away.
Jeremy Ellis, Marketing & Digital Director, said; “2015 promises to be an exciting year for travel. The explosion of mobile technology has not only changed the way people book, but it is also shaping our customers’ holiday experience from start to finish.
“Long haul travel is becoming more accessible and the choice is now vast. With the comfort and convenience of direct flights on the Dreamliner and high standards of accommodation, more holidaymakers are looking further afield.”