A news report written for the Guardian’s Saturday edition about the increasing number of Britons choosing to holiday in the UK this summer…

Dig out the bucket and spade. Dust down the knotted hanky. The British are falling back in love with holidaying at home.

Travel operators are reporting a marked shift in holiday habits among Britons this summer with a sharp rise in people choosing to take a break in the UK instead of going abroad. The strength of the euro, uncertainties about the economy, airport frustrations and rising fuel costs have all combined to increase the appeal of, say, a weekend in Weymouth or a fortnight in the Fens.

The change of holiday habits is not just thrifty, but also environmentally friendly, says Anna Jones, climate campaigner at Greenpeace UK: “People and businesses are realising that it makes economic and environmental sense to fly less. Holidaying closer to home is better for British tourism and better for the climate. It’s time the government recognised this too and started investing in improving the rail network instead of climate-wrecking runways.”

Self-catering holidays are proving particularly popular with Britons eager to maintain a tight control on their expenditure. Hoseasons, the UK’s largest self-catering specialist which “takes one million people on holiday a year”, said it has now almost sold out of accommodation for July and August. Bookings in Cumbria and the Lakes are up 34% on last year, it said, with Norfolk and Suffolk showing similar growth.

Lastminute.com said that its domestic holiday bookings are up 16% year-on-year. Meanwhile, Advantage, which represents 700 of the UK’s independent travel agents, reported a 5% fall in bookings year-on-year in overseas package holidays.

“We are hearing from the industry that bookings are up in British resorts,” said Sian Brenchley, spokesperson for VisitBritain, which rates tourism as Britain’s fifth largest industry, worth £85bn a year. “Holidaymakers are taking a second look at holidaying at home – and are being pleasantly surprised by what they find.”

The strength of the euro against sterling – yesterday one pound was worth €1.25, a 15% fall on this time last year – has left many UK travellers returning from eurozone countries this year reporting a steep rise in costs. For the first time in decades, staying in Britain is being perceived by many Britons as a cheaper option than going to, say, France, Italy or Spain.

Increases in airline fuel surcharges and disillusionment with airports are also playing their part, say industry analysts. The delays at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in March are fresh in the memory and the problems have continued into the summer: a Heathrow baggage handlers union told the Commons transport select committee on Wednesday that 930 bags a day are still missing their onward flights from Terminal 5.

Despite last summer’s washout – and an inclement start to this summer – weather is not as an important a factor to Britons as it once was, according to Richard Carrick, chief executive of Hoseasons: “Our appetite for sun has waned, it seems. Thirty years ago it was of primary importance for tourists, but now it ranks beneath factors such as food, range of activities, and quality of accommodation. The age of the ‘fly and flop’ holiday is over.”

Carrick adds that another important trend is that people are taking more, yet shorter, trips: “The average Briton has 25 days of holiday entitlement a year – this hasn’t changed for over a decade – but because they travel more often they don’t want to travel so far, especially if they are driving with today’s fuel costs. We are seeing that 2-3 hours driving time is the typical limit for Britons holidaying domestically this year. It means bookings are not quite as strong in far-flung places such as Cornwall and Scotland.”

Haven Holidays, which operates 35 holiday parks across the UK said its sales are up 7% on this period last year, but that it has had to innovate to attract these extra customers. For example, it is offering £20 petrol vouchers with its holidays this year to “ease the pain” of driving costs. In contrast to the holiday camps of yesteryear, its holiday parks now offer facilities ranging from health spas to Starbucks cafes.

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