Abta poll finds support for staggered school holidays

Abta poll finds support for staggered school holidaysBy Lee Hayhurst

A survey of Abta members has found widespread support for the staggering of school term times ahead of a parliamentary debate on holiday prices on Monday.A Westminster Hall debate has been prompted by an online petition which gathered over 100,000 signatures and was entitled ‘Stop Holiday Companies charging Extra in School Holidays’.

This week Abta asked its members for their views and 85% of respondents said they would like to see a staggering of school holidays by region to spread out the peak summer travel period.

Abta has called for key stakeholders including schools, Local Education Authorities, and government, to look at staggering the dates of school holidays.

It says a number of other European countries do this and it 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.    Abta members called the proposal a “logical and sensible approach to the problem” and “the most sensible option” which would help “reduce the spike in demand”.

Respondents also pointed out that consumers would benefit from greater availability and choice of holiday if staggering was brought in.

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 say they are concerned by the impact of the government’s new crackdown on term-time absence which is seeing parents fined for taking their children out of school.

A previous regime which had been considered to offer an allowance of 10-days per year at the discretion of the headteacher has been tightened so only absence in the grounds of a family bereavement or religion can be approved.

The Abta survey found concerns that if school holiday timings were changed this would reduce the overall time that schools were on holiday.

Abta itself 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.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills responded to the e-petition which prompted Monday’s debate by saying: “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.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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