While fears about the future of the eurozone are hitting stock markets around the world, canny travellers are targeting some of the worst-affected economies in search of autumn holiday bargains.
According to Hotels.com, there has been a strong surge of enquiries from budget-conscious travellers for breaks in Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.
The website claims internet searches for accommodation in those five countries increased dramatically between June 1 to September 28.
It found searches for hotels in Spain were up 85 per cent, Portugal up 80 per cent, Greece up 78 per cent, Italy up 72 per cent and Ireland up 50 per cent on the same period in 2010. The capital cities of those countries also saw substantial jumps.
Alison Couper of Hotels.com says: “Hoteliers in some of the affected countries have cut room rates to attract visitors, because demand has slumped as domestic consumers have to tighten their belts. It could well be that savvy UK travellers are shopping around and targeting those destinations affected by the euro crisis in the hope of bagging a bargain.”
The latest Hotels.com Hotel Price Index shows room rates fell markedly in the worst affected capitals.
Average room prices in Athens fell 15 per cent to £80 and by three per cent in Lisbon to £79.
Although Dublin appeared to buck this downward trend with a seven per cent rise to £73, it was helped by the high-profile visits of the Queen and Barack Obama in May, as well as the stabilisation of prices which plunged 35 per cent, the heaviest slump in Europe, over the past three years.
There was a four per cent drop in Greece, generally to £96, and a one per cent fall in Portugal to £81. Although prices rallied in Italy and Spain – up five per cent and three per cent, to £113 and £83 respectively – as travellers switched holiday plans away from North African trouble spots like Egypt and Tunisia.
Couper says: “A range of factors affect the popularity and price of hotel destinations, including political unrest, natural disasters and economic turmoil.
“There seems little doubt that the debt upheaval besetting parts of the eurozone has played a significant part in influencing prices as hoteliers discount room rates in an attempt to attract both domestic and overseas visitors.”
Noel Josephides, who runs leading Greek holiday operator Sunvil Holidays, says: “The problem in Greece is not lack of demand for holidays – our numbers are actually up fivr per cent this summer – but dealing with militant activities of groups like air traffic controllers and taxi drivers.”