Rip-off Britain: UK holidays almost always more expensive than similar European getaways, Which? research finds

Costs for private holiday accommodation in the UK have increased by 41 per cent on average since 2019. Which? research has found that holidays to some British destinations currently cost hundreds of pounds more than trips to equivalent European destinations, even when airfare is factored in.

More people have been staying in the UK for their summer holidays this year on account of continuing international travel restrictions, leading to complaints over the high cost of UK holidays and the risk of prices being disproportionately inflated in the face of increased demand.

Which? looked at the average cost of private holiday rentals, hotels and of taking a holiday in various popular UK destinations with comparable locations overseas, and found that in almost every case, taking a holiday in the UK was more expensive.

When Which? looked at the cost of seven nights this August in a highly rated hotel in Lake Garda, Italy, it was nearly a quarter of the price of a comparable holiday in the Lake District. Seven nights accommodation in Lake Garda cost £631, while the seven nights accommodation for two people in Lake Windermere would cost £2,381.

For each holiday, the consumer champion also calculated transport costs. The average UK resident travels 310 miles for their UK holiday, which works out at £43 in petrol costs. Even though this is far cheaper than the £171 for return flights to Italy for two, the total cost of a holiday in Lake Windermere was still more than £1,600 more expensive than Lake Garda.

Which? also found that a seaside holiday in Nice, France, was cheaper than an equivalent holiday to Brighton. Which? found that seven nights accommodation in a highly rated hotel in Nice would cost £679, while the same seven nights in Brighton would cost £1,088.

Despite return flights to Nice costing £406, the total cost of the Brighton holiday for two adults was still higher than the Nice holiday, at £1,131 compared to £1,085.

The only holiday Which? found for this August that worked out cheaper in the UK than abroad was a beach break in Tenby, Wales, compared to Estepona, on the Costa del Sol in Spain – but only by £10.

The accommodation in Tenby was still more expensive than Estepona, costing £880 for seven nights in Tenby compared to £837 for seven nights in a similarly rated hotel in Estepona. Transport costs made the Tenby break marginally cheaper though, with travel in the UK being estimated at £43, while return flights to Estepona would cost an estimated £96.

While the pandemic is partly responsible for driving the cost of UK holidays up, Which? found that even before Covid the UK was already among the most expensive holiday destinations in Europe.

According to data from Kayak, the average nightly rate of three-star and four-star hotels in the UK in 2019 was £109 – 21 per cent more expensive than Spain, 35 per cent more than Portugal and 79 per cent more than Malta, on average.

Even though hotel prices in the UK dropped by an average of 13 per cent last year due to the pandemic, prices in many other European countries dropped as much or more.

For example, in Greece, prices dipped by 20 per cent in 2020, and a hotel room would have cost £71 on average.

The consumer champion also looked at the cost of private accommodation, and found that increased demand has led to significant price increases over the course of the pandemic, and that private accommodation is more expensive in the UK than in other countries.

Data from AirDNA shows that across the whole of the UK self-catered accommodation in August 2021 costs 41 per cent more on average than it did in 2019. This works out at roughly the equivalent of an extra £300 per week.

In August 2019, booking private accommodation in Brighton would have typically cost an average of £109 per night, but in August this year that cost has increased by 89 per cent to £206 per night. Meanwhile, prices have increased by 42 per cent in St Ives, 63 per cent in Sidmouth, and 74 per cent in Lyme Regis.

Increased demand for private accommodation in other countries has also seen prices rise, but not as dramatically as in the UK.

Between August 2019 and 2021, the cost of private accommodation in Marmaris, Turkey, increased by just seven per cent, while in Corfu, Greece, prices only increased by 13 per cent.

In popular Portuguese and Spanish resorts, such as Alvor in the Algarve and Costa Adeje in Tenerife, the price of private accommodation increased by 22 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. These increases were significantly smaller than in popular UK seaside destinations, like St Ives, Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and Brighton.

Which?’s advice for anyone looking to book a UK holiday is to be flexible with dates and destinations if possible, as popular destinations during peak holiday seasons cost significantly more in the UK.

Savings can also be made by avoiding booking sites and instead making a booking directly with the hotel or accommodation owner. Many hotels, B&Bs, and some private accommodation owners will be able to offer a better price if you book directly. Previous Which? research found that in eight out of 10 instances, hotels were able to offer a better price or an incentive like a room upgrade when contacted directly.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said:

“Holidaying at home has always been expensive, but the situation has become far worse during the pandemic and it’s no wonder many people have felt priced out of a holiday this year.

“The reasons for these higher prices are complex, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that some unscrupulous accommodation providers are charging over the odds.

“The good news is that there are ways to save on UK holidays. By looking just a few miles down the road from the most popular destinations or travelling out of peak holiday season, holidaymakers can significantly reduce the cost of their trip.”


Notes to editors:

  1. Eight out of 10 UK hotel rooms cheaper booked directly rather than online

  2. Miles cheaper – The UK holiday destination swaps that will save you hundreds

  3. Struggling to find a UK seaside summer holiday stay? Book for 29% less in October half term

  4. Prices are for two adults for seven nights during the same week in August 2021. Accommodation prices include breakfast and are for the cheapest available hotel within 1 mile of the town/city centre and with a rating of at least eight on UK transport costs are estimated petrol costs for driving 310 miles, the average distance people drive for staycations according to July 2020 research from LV. Overseas transport costs are the cheapest direct return flights for two people at a reasonable time, as found on Skyscanner.

About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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