How has booking changed for UK holidaymakers?

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

A holiday habits report by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) revealed that more than 75% of UK consumers book their holidays online.

But why do people prefer to book over the internet and how has this changed over the years?

Holidays of the past

We might ask ourselves: “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! Following the decline of the Roman empire, the idea of a holiday changed. The Dark Ages saw pilgrimages become the only form of holiday, while the Tudors reserved travel only for royalty. It wasn’t until around 1660, mid Renaissance era, that young artists and aristocrats revived the Roman past-time, embarking on Grand Tours of Europe from the age of around 21.

Holidays only really began to reflect the break we all look forward to today during the industrial revolution, with the introduction of the first bank holiday in 1871. 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.

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 changed — how we book them has, too.


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 somewhere to physically stay. No longer are people limited to hotels or apartments in a single agent’s portfolio, online you can find, compare, book, and pay for a coastal cottage or luxury city apartment with just the touch of a few buttons.

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 travellers, follow successful ‘Instragrammers’, 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 travellers’ time. No longer do you have to spend a Saturday afternoon in a travel agents’ queue, trawling teletext or checking availability over the phone. People can book from the comfort of their home or even out and about, day or night. 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 forking out! Plenty of 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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