Daily Telegraph Travel Awards 2008

Written by Tony

Telegraph Travel Awards 2008

The following article was originally published here:ᅠhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/3520300/Telegraph-Travel-Awards-2008.html

New Zealand, Cape Town, Italy and York have been voted Telegraph readers’ favourite destinations in our annual travel awards.

Telegraph Travel Awards 2008: the winners

Top table: Cape Town has been voted readers’ favourite world cityPhoto: GETTY

Credit crunch, downturn, inflation, deflation, depression, recession – every week there’s a new buzzword for the current economic crisis – but has it encouraged you the readers of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph to change your travel tastes? Are you now looking towards home stays over foreign sejours? Are you putting austerity before luxury, frugality before far-flung shores? Not a chance.

More than 25,000 readers were recently polled in Britain’s biggest survey of travel habits and a staggering 92 per cent of you maintain that the credit crunch will have no effect on your choice of destination, while 96 per cent resolutely refuse to downgrade your holiday accommodation. Your favourite destinations on earth are New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Canada; your favourite cities are Cape Town, San Francisco, Sydney and Vancouver; your favourite airlines are the long-haul specialists Singapore Airlines, Virgin, Emirates and Qatar Airways. If the far-flung nature of your choices are an indication of your desire to escape Gordon Brown’s Britain, then you have made your point.

For the third successive year, you have voted New Zealand your favourite destination outside Europe, pipping its rival from across the Tasman Sea. To coin a phrase from our Antipodean friends, New Zealand has now become the “mailman” for Telegraph readers – it always delivers. Some 240 years after Captain Cook first set his prow towards its shores, record numbers of Britons still rave about the rugged and wild beauty of these Pacific islands. But do not mistake these long-haul choices for a lack of fiscal control.

It quickly becomes clear that your favourite destinations (outside Europe) are ones where the pound has actually strengthened against the respective currencies in the past year (the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars and the South African rand). The same goes for your choices of cities, with the exception of San Francisco (where the pound has fallen by a third against the dollar). Iceland has even made it in into the top four European countries for the first time – its economic plight (which has seen prices plunge by a third for British visitors) has prompted a rapid rise in popularity.

The Telegraph readers’ holiday budget remains surprisingly healthy – more than half of you spent more than £1,000 on your last holiday, one in six of you spent between £2,500 and £5,000 and one in 20 spent more than £5,000. As Britain enters a new winter of discontent, taking a break may never feel more needed, but the value for money it provides will be scrutinised like never before.

This is why, during belt-tightening times, readers return to destinations they know – namely, the English-speaking former colonies – and companies they feel they can entrust with their hard-earned pounds. It is no coincidence that at these awards, announced at The Honourable Artillery Company in London this week, readers have gunned for many of those that won our inaugural awards a decade ago.

As in 1998, Australia and New Zealand are your favourite countries, Emirates, Virgin and Singapore Airlines take the airline spoils, Changi in Singapore is still your favourite airport and Titan Travel is again your preferred operator. Such loyalty is hard earned and easily lost, but, in your eyes, these are the ones that keep on delivering.

To survive they will have to carry on delivering. Long before the Chancellor announced this week that Air Passenger Duty is going to rise by up to £45 per flight by the end of 2010, 25 airlines had gone under this year.

If that has not been a wake-up call for the industry, then this will be: nearly three quarters of Telegraph readers (71 per cent) felt they got better value by booking holidays themselves, rather than through an operator – compared with 61 per cent last year. In fact, only a third of you book through tour operators, less than a third look at brochures, and only 14 per cent go to a high street travel agent. With statistics like these, it is no surprise then that Tui, one of Britain’s two largest travel operators, closed 100 of its high-street travel agencies this year. Instead, 90 per cent of you now use the internet to plan a holiday – garnering information from operators, online guides, media portals and websites where you get your chance to “rate and slate” holidays and hotels. It is Tripadvisor – the clear leader in this genre of website – that you have nominated as your best website.

But there is still a place for the old-fashioned specialists. “Where some travel companies will ask you to tick a few boxes online, we prefer to listen to you, either face-to-face or over the phone” – Trailfinders’ approach can still be winning formula in the internet age, as seen in the fact you have voted it the best independent specialist for the third time in four years.

Simply getting through on the phone seems a miracle when dealing with the low-cost carriers. Where extra charges on no-frills flights were once an irritant, during a downturn they are now one of your major bugbears – rising fees for using debit or credit card charges and penalties for checking in luggage, you say, are the worst of all.

Since our last awards Ryanair has imposed debit card charges of £8 per person per return flight (unless you use Visa Electron) to match those of its credit card charges. For a family of four that is £32 in charges before you even packed your suitcase.

Even then you have to be careful – pack much more than a change of clothes, wash bag, passport and holiday read, and you will pay the price. Ryanair says it won’t stop increasing its charges for checking-in a bag – £24 return and counting – until two-thirds of passengers take hand luggage only. It is far from being the only offender – easyJet, Jet2, Flybe and Bmibaby all charge similar amounts and judging by recent news that Air France and Singapore Airlines are to charge for choosing your seats, scheduled airlines may not be far behind. Nevertheless 40 per cent of you maintain that you always check-in a bag on your travels.

It is perhaps in this context that Air Berlin was voted your favourite low-cost carrier for the second successive year. Unlike others, it does not charge for checking in luggage and allows passengers a relatively generous 20kg limit. But the airline has come through a tough period – in the wake of XL Airways’ demise this summer, the bookmaker Paddy Power offered odds of 7-1 that Air Berlin would be the next carrier to go under. The airline has responded by trimming its European network before going where other low-cost airlines have failed by starting long-haul flights from Stansted to destinations like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bangkok and the Maldives.

Monarch, which marked its 40th anniversary this year, has another reason to celebrate as it is named king of the charter airlines for the second year running. Boosted by the collapse of its rival XL in Setpember, this week it announced that it will operate former XL Airways routes from Gatwick to the Caribbean islands of Grenada and Tobago.

With Singapore being the model of cool efficiency, it was no surprise that it tightened its grip in the aviation categories – winning best airline (Singapore Airlines beating Virgin and Emirates) and favourite airport (Changi, ahead of perennial bridesmaid, Hong Kong).

More surprising perhaps was Bournemouth’s ascent to the top table of your favourite airports. But in the context of the growing popularity of regional airports, whose stock has risen as fast as Heathrow’s has plummeted, it makes sense. In excess of 100 million Britons now use regional airports each year – encouraged by the ease of access, cheap parking and growing flight connections they offer.

It is not all bad news for Heathrow. After an opening that was about as successful as the Titanic’s inaugural sailing, Terminal 5 has bounced back. Of those that have used Terminal 5, 81 per cent of you have given it the thumbs up. In a further boost to BA and BAA, and a blow to the green lobby, two-thirds of you are in favour of the third runway being built at Heathrow.

In fact, only one in 10 Telegraph readers consider the environment when booking a holiday – a figure that is likely to fall even further in the current economic climate. during this winter Already more than 10 per cent one of you admit that the downturn has deterred you from offsetting your flights.

One in seven of you travel more often by train than two years ago, but whether this a by-product of a growing environmental awareness or simply the improved connections and faster train times that has made Eurostar your favourite cross-channel operator for the second year in a row, is not clear. Either way, Eurostar has been the big transport success story of the past year. Often accused as only serving those in South East, better regional link-ups – with “through fares” from 130 towns – has seen regional growth rise by 150 per cent.

High fuel prices have made life difficult for ferries, bringing the demise of SpeedFerries – whose high-speed services to Boulogne were an attractive alternative to the usual Dover-Calais sailings. Your musical chairs approach to choosing the best car hire company, saw Hertz named the winner – although recent innovations such as home delivery service may have swayed your votes.

Out on the high seas, you pick Celebrity Cruises as your favourite. Despite the industry entering rough waters in recent weeks after years of sustained growth, the cruise line is in bullish mood. Perhaps this is because the grass is always greener on its new 1,200-berth ship, Solstice, which comes complete with manicured croquet lawns; or more likely because it expects to double its sales after deciding to offer cruises out of Britian for the first time in 2010.

Back onᅠterra cotta, as John Prescott famously put it, dreams of la dolce vita continue to make Italy your preferred European destination for the second year in a row.

As the euro continues its rise against the pound those Middle-England magnets – Rome, Venice, Florence, Tuscany and the Amalfi coast – may have appeared strangely devoid of English voices this autumn – but perhaps that was part of the attraction.

Despite these financial pressures, Rome’s Hotel Cavalieri has ruined the birthday celebrations of Kong Kong’s Peninsula (80) and Mount Nelson in Cape Town (110 in March next year) by being named your favourite city hotel. A clever combination of luxurious interiors and innovation has kept the hotel in the spotlight – recently, it has been offering its guests running tours around Rome with the general manager andᅠgladiator training schools.

While Europe’s major beach resorts have suffered, Alpine ski resorts are bucking the downward trend. The Ski Club of Great Britain estimates that a record 1.35 million skiers will head to the slopes this winter, boosted by the good early snowfall. Some may be surprised to see Neilson win the best ski company, but in an age of the high euro those fondue nights in expensive Alpine restaurants are not longer quite so much fun when the bill arrives and an all-inclusive holiday makes much more financial sense.

Back in Blighty, York has beaten Bath, Edinburgh and London to be rated as the Britain’s best city. But then again, as a city associated with Eric Bloodaxe, Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin and Robert Aske, it has never been shy about upsetting the status quo.

The capital has had revenge on the hotel front – Claridges, a byword for refined elegance, takes top spot on its 110th birthday, beating Brown’s and Gleneagles. but there is little else to cheer at home. Recent reports by Hoseasons of a rise in domestic breaks, appear to be born out of economic necessity rather than new-found favour, nostalgia or sudden environmental consciousness.

Telegraph readers remain disgruntled. Few believe domestic breaks represent good value (30 per cent), while nearly half of you believe British transport has deteriorated over the past two years. Anyone who attended this months’ World Travel Market in London’s Docklands, would testify to that, as problems on both the Jubilee Line and DLR brought chaos for three consecutive days.

But then what can be expected when the Government’s commitment to the tourism industry (worth some £144 billion a year) was demonstrated by the appointment of the eighth new tourism minster in 11 years?

Middle-Eastern countries take the opposite view about tourism – their investment in the holiday industry is quite astonishing. Perhaps then it is not surprising that they dominate the foreign hotels category. The perennial Dubai favourites – the Madinat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Beach – have to be content with the runners-up slots as Shangri-La’s Barr al Jissah Resort in Oman takes the spoils. Theᅠeviction of hundreds of holidaymakersᅠbooked to stay there over Christmas, due to the Sultan’s late decision to move a conference to the resort, might hinder its chances of retaining the title in 2009. But, as usual, you the readers will be the judge and jury.

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