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News: Record 2.3m seek Easter sun

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) estimates a record 2.3 million British holidaymakers are set to leave the country this weekend in a scramble for the sun.

Relentlessly cold temperatures here in the UK and a late Easter has fuelled demand for warmer destinations and also means that many of the Mediterranean resorts will be open, even though the summer season has not yet started.

Spain is the outright favourite country for this weekend, with the Canary Islands and Tenerife in particular - the most popular.  The weather there promises to be sensational, and temperatures should firmly remain in the 20s.  Mallorca is also very popular, followed by the Costas particularly del Sol and Blanca.  Many people will also be heading over to Spain to visit their holiday homes this Easter.

Cyprus has regained its popularity this year, while Portugal - particularly the Algarve - is next followed by Tunisia, Egypt and Florida.

The Caribbean is also great in April and Barbados, Cuba and the Dominican Republic are also in demand this Easter.  But before the European beach season really gets into full swing, now is also a peak time for city breaks and the top five this year will be Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Venice.

This year has also seen numbers to the Holy Land rise to pre-2000 levels, and hotels are booked out for the Easter and Passover, which coincide this year.

Martin Wellings, ABTA President said: "Although Easter is always a busy time of year for the travel industry, there seems to be a real pent up demand this year, that we've been able to fulfil. It promises to be a very busy weekend."

Last year over 2.2 million people flew abroad for Easter.

The scramble begins...

The mass exodus starts today, with many of the airports reporting Thursday as their busiest day.

Over one million passengers alone will be leaving the country through BAA airports this Easter, while from the South East just under half a million will leave from Heathrow, approximately 262,000 will leave from Gatwick, 172,350 from Stansted and 60,000 will depart from Luton.  Manchester airport expects 220,000 passengers.

Other regional airports and ferry terminals will also be extremely busy over the weekend and at least another 80,000 will be leaving by Eurostar.

Many more will also be making the most of the weekend by venturing closer to home and UK beach resorts and countryside will also be busy. ABTA Members selling UK holidays have reported that bookings have been up substantially over the last few weeks.

According to VisitBritain, 23% of the UK adult population are planning a trip over the next two weeks inclusive of Easter, representing a 2% increase on last year.  More than twice as many (60%) are planning an overnight trip in England during this period, compared to going abroad (27%).

The RAC told Metro: "Roads on Thursday evening are likely to be very busy, with rush-hour starting early.  We also anticipate a busy Good Friday as many people make an early start to beat the traffic."

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