Cardiff Airport set for increase in passenger numbers this summer

12.6.2009   (Wales online)

by Sarah Miloudi

STAYCATION may be the buzzword for the travel industry this year, but not even the recession
will stop an exodus from Wales this summer.

The term was coined to describe the cheap and cheerful trend for holidaymakers
to enjoy the attractions of their locale rather than jetting off to more exotic

But after the Western Mail revealed yesterday that advance bookings for Welsh
tourism operators were no better than for last year’s disastrous summer, the native
holiday industry has suffered another blow with figures today showing a boost
in the numbers of passengers expected to travel through Wales’ biggest airport.

The poor strength of the pound against the euro has failed to dampen holidaymakers’
enthusiasm for Europe’s sunniest destinations, with 11% more Welsh tourists set
to head to the Canary Islands next month.

Destinations like Malaga, Southern Spain, a perennial favourite with sun-seekers,
are also set to see visitor numbers rise.

Figures from airline BMIbaby reveal that 8% more tourists will head for the region
next month, while other resorts like Menorca, also in Spain, have witnessed a
significant increase in their advanced, year-on-year booking numbers.

The booking figures come just a day after tourism executives in Wales warned
of dismal summer trading, with figures from Visit Wales revealing that more than
half – 66% – of the country’s hoteliers, B&B and hostel owners reported their
advanced bookings for 2009 being the same or down on 2008 levels.

But Crawford Rix, managing director of the low-cost flight group, said the figures
were proof that Welsh tourists were still keen to enjoy exotic breaks abroad.

"We are seeing a strong demand from passengers for sunshine destinations, with
Alicante, Palma and Malaga topping our lists from Cardiff," Mr Rix said.

"Passenger load factors from Cardiff to Malaga are up 8%, and to Palma by 11%
for travel in July, compared to the same month in 2008. This proves that people
still want their summer sunshine holiday."

With Wales set to bask in a rare Mediterranean-style heatwave this summer, the
Association of British Travel Agents predicted that the number of Brits travelling
abroad could fall by as much as 10%.

But the association’s Casia Zajac said last night that the situation could change,
as historically UK tourists have been reluctant to ditch their overseas vacations.

Miss Zajac said: "It is very difficult to give this type of advanced prediction,
as advanced bookings can change and often do so at a late stage.

"These figures for Wales are positive, however, and it seems that Spain and the
Balearics are still popular despite the poor exchange rates."

Each year, more than 10 million UK tourists flock to Spain, but travel experts
think the region could see a slide in visitor numbers by as much as 20%.

Simon Calder, travel editor at The Independent, said: "People are expected to
bypass countries like Greece, Spain and France, with most who chose to go abroad
heading to Turkey.

"Spain will still be the number one destination, but would expect their numbers
to fall by about two million.

"By comparison, I don’t think any UK destination has emerged as the most popular,
I think people are just heading to rural and coastal towns and rejoicing in what
Britain has to offer."

For the first time in over a decade, Turkey – a holiday spot outside the costly
eurozone – is expected to see its British visitor numbers hit the two million

Travel writer David Atkinson said: "Turkey has seen a lot of modernisation, with
hotels springing up in Istanbul and its other regions, and it has attracted a
lot of attention because next year it will be the European city of culture, even
though it isn’t in Europe.

"I think people feel that they can go there relatively cheaply, and with just
a short flight, and get a completely different cultural experience,"

Holiday destinations like Croatia and Egypt are also expected to emerge as favourites
in 2009, but industry critics belive that staycations – holidays within Britain
– will prove popular.

"Staycation is still the buzz word within the industry, and this is where the
main focus lies," Mr Atkinson said.

A spokeswoman for Cardiff Airport said its figures were strong for destinations
like the Balearics, Malta and Spain.

"Although it is early in the summer season we have seen strong load factors for
holiday routes," she said.

"Favourite destinations like the Canaries, Balearics, Greece, Cyprus and Malta
are proving popular during the first week in June.     We expect this to continue
throughout June to September especially during the school summer holidays when
the airport is at its busiest."

Other popular destinations from the airport include Paris and Barcelona.