Weakened pound no deterrent to European travel this summer: report

Guest Contributor

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The weaker pound may mean holidaymakers face increases in the cost of meals, drinks and other tourist staples in European beach resorts this year but Post Office Travel Money’s latest Holiday Costs Barometer reveals that price rises could be lower than feared. 

The value of sterling has fallen against the euro.
The value of sterling has fallen against the euro.

While sterling has fallen from its seven-year high against European currencies last summer, the 10th annual survey of costs for UK tourists found that top resorts in Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and Italy have cut or pegged their local prices to cushion the blow.

Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: “There is no escaping the fact that sterling is weaker this year than last, resulting in price rises in 80 per cent of resorts surveyed.  However, looking back to previous years, European resort costs have still fallen quite significantly in the longer term.”

Compared with two years ago when sterling started to surge against the euro, barometer costs have fallen significantly in every country surveyed except Ibiza and Turkey.  Over five years the price falls now compared with 2011 are even more marked³.

Post Office research found the biggest price falls in Cyprus, which registered a 23 per cent drop in the cost of items surveyed for the barometer compared with 2014 and a 45 per cent fall since 2011. Limassol was also one of only three European resorts to emerge as cheaper than last year.  At £51.82 its basket of 10 staples – comprising meals, drinks, suncream, insect repellent and newspaper – costs over seven per cent less than a year ago.  This makes it third cheapest in the survey of 20 resorts, beating Spain’s Costa del Sol (£52.65) for the first time.

Sunny Beach in Bulgaria remains Europe’s bargain destination for the third year running and looks unbeatable value – primarily because of low meal prices: less than £7 for a two-course lunch for two and under £22 for a three-course evening meal with wine.  Despite a 9.3 per cent year-on-year rise in its barometer total to £41.55, Sunny Beach prices are 23 per cent lower than five years ago and almost 12 per cent cheaper than the Algarve, its closest rival.

However, the Algarve is the best bet for a bargain break in the eurozone.  At around £47 for the 10 barometer items, local price falls mean sterling’s fall will fail to make a big hole in the tourist purse because overalls costs are only five per cent higher than last summer.  Like Cyprus, Portuguese prices have plummeted since 2014 (-17 per cent) and UK tourists visiting the Algarve for the first time in five years will find them 28 per cent cheaper than in 2011.

In fourth-placed Costa del Sol local prices remain at 2015 levels and the eight per cent rise in costs relates purely to the weaker exchange rate (£52.65). However, with packages to Spain selling like hot cakes after falling demand for Turkey, there has been speculation that prices may rise.  If that happens, savvy travellers could head north for the sandy shores of Asturias, where package and resort prices are low.  In Gijón (5th) the barometer total is £61.

Post Office Travel Money’s research suggests that holidaymakers can also save themselves money in sixth-placed Costa Blanca.  Resort prices have fallen almost six per cent since last year to £62.29, making the popular villa destination a third top 10 destination for Spain.

The Greek islands also look strong contenders this year with three top 10 entries.  Crete (7th) leads the trio with a barometer total of £63.16.  New for 2016, Zante (8th, £64.65) and Kefalonia (10th, £68.49) are cheaper than Corfu, where higher resort costs have combined with the weak pound to make tourist staples over 14 per cent pricier this year (£72.26).

Completing the top ten, Porec (9th, £65.19) in Croatia’s Istria peninsula has lower resort prices than Zadar (£75.65, 14th) further south, where prices are 16 per cent higher.  Prices have fallen 30 per cent in five years in increasingly-popular Croatia, the second highest fall.

In the Balearic Islands Menorca (13th, £74.40) emerges as a better bet than Majorca (17th, £81.79) where prices are 10 per cent higher.  In Palma’s beach resorts, the five-year pattern of seesawing prices has repeated itself with a 23 per cent year-on-year rise. However, Ibiza emerges as most expensive in the Balearics and the highest-priced of the 20 beach resorts surveyed. At £113.69, prices in Ibiza are 53 per cent higher than in Menorca.

Sorrento (£96.91) is the third resort where the Post Office found price falls, although the Italian resort remains one of the most expensive surveyed, only a few pence cheaper than the south of France (Nice, £96.99).  An eight per cent local fall in meal costs accounts for a slight drop (0.4 per cent) in overall barometer costs after the exchange rate was applied.

Andrew Brown said: “The pound may be worth less in Europe than a year ago but our research suggests UK tourists who choose destinations carefully could find resort prices lower than expected. However, sterling could be affected – positively or negatively – by the EU referendum vote.  For those still at the planning stage, it will be wise to compare prices for tourist staples in resorts you are considering before booking.  This could make all the difference to how far the holiday budget will stretch.

“Budget carefully and take enough cash to see you through as the cost of changing money abroad on a debit card could pack an unpleasant punch when you get your bank statement. Our latest research found that the average resort spend is over £500 so it makes sense to take at least that amount with you to avoid running out of cash – especially as there are improved rates for higher value transactions in our branches or online.”


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