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Brexit pushes UK holidaymakers further afield for summer break

[LONDON] UK tourists are warming to the idea of a break outside of the EU, as anxiety over travel arrangements post-Brexit and the weakness of the pound compared to the euro make a break in the bloc less attractive.

Almost half of all the package holidays booked through tour operator Thomas Cook Group Plc are to locations outside the Eurozone, compared with 38 per cent last year, the company said in a report on consumer trends.

Turkey has leapfrogged Greece to become the second most popular destination for UK holidaymakers seeking summer sun, with the travel group seeing a 27 per cent uplift in flight bookings to the country from a year earlier. Turkey's own currency drop - down more than 25 per cent against the pound in the past year - has made it a more affordable destination.

"In the UK, we are living in a time of unprecedented political upheaval" Peter Fankhauser, the company's chief executive officer, said in a forward to the report. "The prolonged uncertainty around the manner and timing of Britain's exit from the European Union has led many customers to press pause on their holiday plans for this summer."

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Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd and Jet2 are among the airlines that have warned divorce negotiations were weighing on ticket sales. EasyJet Plc gave a cautious outlook in a trading update this month, with Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren saying that Brexit uncertainty "clearly has had an impact on customer demand." Tour operators like Saga Group Plc have also noted how the UK's protracted exit from the EU has led to a lower level of bookings.

Tunisia also stands out as an increasingly popular destination for UK sun-seekers, with family bookings to Tunisia up 159 per cent year on year. The north African country was Thomas Cook's third biggest year-round destination before a terrorist attack at a hotel in 2015 left 38 people dead. UK government advice warning against travel to Tunisia was withdrawn in July 2017.

Spain remains Brits' number one summer holiday destination.

Concerns over summer disruptions have eased since the Brexit deadline was pushed back earlier this month, with some travel agents and booking websites noting a dramatic uptick in bookings after the extension was confirmed.

"It is too early to say what impact this will now have on consumer confidence" Mr Fankhauser said.

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