How has booking changed for UK holidaymakers?

Gone are the days of  that heading into town to visit your local travel agent was the only way to book a holiday. Today, a growing number of people are ditching the traditional methods of booking holidays and opting for digital platforms instead.

A survey by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) revealed that more than 75% of UK consumers book their holidays online.  This is a staggeringly high number. So the question is why do people prefer to book over the internet?

Holidays of the past

Monty Python may have asked: “what did the Romans ever do for us?!” but research has revealed that the Romans were the pioneers of what remains our most pleasurable past-time: going on holiday.

Highly likely to be an effect of the ever-expanding borders of the empire, Romans were the first civilisation to travel for pleasure, with some breaks for the very wealthy lasting up to two years at a time! (sounds like my kind of holiday!) But our modern ideas of what a holiday is only really began to form about 300 years ago, with the introduction of the first bank holiday in 1871. Trains made traveling a much quicker experience, and opened up the British Isles with trips to the coastal towns of Scarborough, Skegness and Southport becoming popular. The Victorians travelled by steam engine and spent their new, three-day weekends on trips to the seaside: taking donkey rides, building sandcastles and tasting vanilla ‘99’ ice-creams for the very first time. The British holiday was born!

Fast-forward 150 years, through the mass production of cars, the rise and fall of the British holiday camp, and the birth of the package holiday, and here we are, exploring all parts of the world. And it isn’t just the style or destination of the holidays that we take that has change, but how we book them has, too. Holidays, like everything else in modern life, have become digital.


The growth of holiday lettings agencies and travel comparison sites means that consumers have a greater choice when it comes to picking not only a holiday destination, but the accommodation you choose to stay in. It is no longer just about hotels or apartments, online you can find, compare, book, and pay for a coastal cottage or luxury city apartment with just the touch of a few buttons. From Yurts to castles, from camper vans to stately homes, everything now goes.

Greater independence

Digital platforms have given consumers greater independence to plan holidays their way. Now there is no need to rely on organised excursions once we arrive, rather, we read blogs and reviews from fellow travelers with Trip Advisor being a modern day travel bible, we follow successful ‘Instragrammers’ who share every inch of their lustworthy holidays, and arrange our own transport and tours via local guides to explore hidden gems off the beaten track and quench our thirst for discovery.


Booking online also saves aspiring travelers’ time and gives you the option to book when you want and where you want.  People can book from the comfort of their home or even out and about, day or night, even booking holidays through their phone, rather than on their phone. Many, if not all, booking sites are available around the clock, which means that no matter where you are in the world, it’s always book-online-o’clock.


Digital developments have also revolutionised the way we pay for our holidays. While paying securely is a standard feature of all booking sites, many have the functionality for customers to input discount codes which result in a specific percentage coming off the full amount — a pleasant surprise no matter how much or little you might be paying. Many sites also allow consumers to give the gift of a holiday to their loved ones, providing e-vouchers which, just like discount codes, are redeemable at the check-out stage of a booking.

Clearly, how we book has changed massively over the years — but who’s to know what the future of holidays holds for us yet.

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