Sunshine Saturday – 10th January predicted to be busiest day of year for holiday bookings

10th January is predicted to be the busiest day of the year for holiday bookings according to leading holiday providers Thomson and First Choice.  Based on booking patterns over the last five years and with great deals available including 20,000 free kids places, the holiday giants are expecting over one million people to go online or visit their high street stores on what is being termed Sunshine Saturday.

  • Over one million people expected to visit a Thomson or First Choice shop or website this Saturday
  • 37,000 customers expected to book in 24 hours
  • Mobile and tablet bookings expected to hit all time high with 40% of bookings made on devices

As the post-Christmas blues kick in and Brits look to escape the weather for warmer climes, Thomson and First Choice are expecting to see 37,000 customers book to go on holiday in 2015.  Bookings are predicted to peak in-store at 2.30pm and online at 8.30pm.

Furthermore, Thomson and First Choice are expecting more people than ever before to search for and book their holiday on a tablet or smartphone.  Over 40% of the online bookings made this Saturday are expected to be made via these devices, up 10% versus last year.

With the introduction of the new MyThomson and MyFirstChoice apps with search and book function, Thomson and First Choice are predicting a new mobile booking record for 2015, beating last year’s single purchase of nearly £14,000 for a family holiday to Orlando via a mobile device.

The most popular short/mid haul destinations for the coming year are anticipated to be the Balearics, Canaries and Greece, whilst for those looking for some faraway sun Costa Rica, Mauritius and Mexico are set to top the list.

Thomson Cruises’ Cuban Fusion and Pride of Panama winter itineraries on-board the Thomson Dream are expected to be Sunshine Saturday bestsellers as Brits look to explore countries like Cuba and Central America from the ship’s new home port in Montego Bay, Jamaica. With Thomson Celebration also based in Caribbean for winter, replacing the Dream in its previous port in Barbados, Thomson Cruises also expects to see strong demand for the already popular itineraries sailing to Caribbean favourites such as Antigua, St Kitts and St Maarten. Sailings from Dubrovnik on-board the Thomson Celebration in the summer are also expected to be a hit with adult only itineraries available.

Taking all these holidaymakers away over the coming year, Thomson Airways will carry over 78,000 tonnes of luggage, flying over two million miles to 73 holiday destinations.

Andrew Flintham, Commercial Director, for Thomson and First Choice said: ‘With Christmas now out of the way many people feel they need a holiday in the sunshine to look forward to. Over the last few years we’ve noticed that our customers are booking holidays earlier and with searches over Christmas hitting an all-time high, we’re expecting the rush to continue with our busiest day of year this Saturday. It’s also the perfect time for Brits to take advantage of some of the great new year deals available to places like Croatia and Greece or further afield to Costa Rica, Thailand and Jamaica.”

© Thomson

 

Iceland, iBeacons and in-flight kids clubs – Thomson and First Choice predict the top travel trends for 2015

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 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…

EMERGING DESTINATIONS

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.

Long haul…

  • 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 is 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 the 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 (smart phones 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 smart watch 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 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 means 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 child care 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 a more personalised customer service, share destination information and pass special requests and information over to the resort team for a 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, it is 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.”

© Thomson

Costa Rican rainforests, beaches and wildlife in tropical paradise for 2015

Thomson and First Choice are pleased to announce the introduction of tropical paradise Costa Rica into their long haul winter programme from November 2015. The weekly flight from Gatwick will be the only direct flight from Europe on the Dreamliner and the only direct flight from the UK to the Central American paradise famous for its wildlife, rainforests and active volcanoes.

Volcano Arenal, La Fortuna, Costa Rica © Arturo Sotillo

Costa Rica is an adventure lover’s paradise with a visit to its most popular volcano, Arenal, top of the ‘must see’ list for most visitors. The 5,375ft volcano, Arenal, is now in a resting phase following 50 years as the country’s most active volcano. Those with a head for heights love the chance to walk across six hanging bridges in the cloud forest in Monteverde, spying toucans, sleeping snakes and rare orchids in the rainforest below, before flying 1km across the canopy on Costa Rica’s longest zip line.

A fantastic range of hotels are available, with highlights including the Riu Palace, a 5T all- inclusive hotel right on the beachfront at Playa Matapalo. The hotel forms part of the newly launched Thomson Platinum Lifestyle range, with luxurious and modern rooms decked out in vibrant colours and spacious sun terraces. The hotel has four a la carte restaurants, a sleek spa with an indulgent treatment menu and four swimming pools. This hotel, together with a second 5T all inclusive hotel, the Riu Guanacaste, will also be available through First Choice’s Premier range.

The 4T Tamarindo Diria has a number of board options and is perfectly placed on the beach for enjoying Costa Rica’s stunning sunsets. Tamarindo is a surfers’ paradise and the coastline provides a great place to learn to ride the waves. The town itself has a chilled-out vibe and the bars and restaurants are right on the doorstep of the hotel.

For customers who want to explore their holiday paradise a little more, four and seven night tour options are also available with stops at Arenal. The seven-night ‘grand tour’ also takes in everything from the Pacific coast over to the Caribbean coast as well as trekking in the national park in Rincon de la Vieja, visiting hot springs and enjoying horseback riding before spending the night in a local hacienda. An experience not to be missed is a night tour of the Sara Pique rainforest – home of Costa Rica’s eye-catching green frogs. A day’s city tour in the capital San Jose completes the tour. The four-night tour includes a visit to the cloud forest in Monteverde as well as a stop at a butterfly park and hummingbird sanctuary.

Mark Hall, Director of Product for Thomson and First Choice, said: “We’re thrilled to be launching Costa Rica as a new destination for holidaymakers and it is fantastic to be offering the only direct flight from the UK on our Dreamliner. It’s an amazing country, with some really experiential excursions as well as great hotels. It adds further mix to our long haul flying programme, and most importantly offers something unique to our customers.”

For those who can’t wait until November 2015, or want a sneak preview of the delights the destination offers, Costa Rica is available to cruise lovers from January 2015, with a stop on the ‘Pride of Panama’ itinerary on Thomson Dream.

© Thomson / First Choice

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