Credit: Kirsten Colligan

Film & TV Columnist

With tourism in Eastern Europe now outpacing Mediterranean sunshine breaks, is the demise of the traditional beach holiday an inevitability?

A familiar memory for many Brits is of their first holiday – the first time of escaping the doom and gloom of the UK for the idyllic beaches located in a paradise further afield. The Mediterranean has long been a favourite for Brits going abroad, with the package holiday promise of a hassle-free, rain free break. Days spent lounging by the pool, soaking in some much-needed vitamin D, with nights filled with cocktails and karaoke – it’s a much-loved tradition. But are the days of sun, sea and sangria over?

With recent surveys indicating that tourism in Eastern Europe is increasingly on the rise, the interest in the time-honoured beach holiday is not what it once was. It seems that a new tradition is emerging and reshaping British tourism patterns in the form of city breaks. Trips to the once off-limits cities of Eastern Europe are becoming more appealing for a variety of reasons – most notably for their affordability.

The accessibility of visiting this once recluse part of the world is now easier than ever, with budget airlines seizing the opportunity to transport us efficiently at a low-cost. Visits to Riga and Prague have become popular destinations for stag dos and hen parties, which have moved away from the once favoured sunny Spanish resorts of Benidorm and Mallorca. The modest price of commodities attracts this type of tourism, offering some of the cheapest pints in Europe - inexpensively satisfying the purpose of these party-packed holidays.

However, there are many other reasons Brits are choosing to visit Eastern Europe other than for the nightlife they offer. Not wanting to live up to the "Brits abroad" stereotype, it is the unique culture of these cities that appeals to many of us. Whether it’s relaxing in the thermal baths in Budapest or exploring the salt mines of Krakow, a short city break can offer a diverse range of activities that are exclusive to that given part of the world. Their intriguing range of cultures blend from different eras, creating a historical allure and desire to explore these curiously different landscapes – from the impeccably preserved, medieval old town of Tallinn to the brutalist structures of Bratislava. The history is rich in this part of Europe and is one that Westerners haven’t had the chance to explore – until now.

Not only have cheaper flights given us more flexibility to visit these cities, but they have also helped shaped Eastern Europe as a desirable tourist destination. Croatia, for example, is now known for its expanding music festival scene – with more and more young Brits choosing to visit the sunny coastline as their summer holiday of choice. This has also become a popular destination due to exposure created by the filming of hit tv series Game of Thrones taking place here, showing that Eastern Europe can still offer that beachy holiday to some.

Quite simply, people are favouring shorter breaks over switching off from reality on a two-week long holiday. This pattern is most prominent in millennials - a generation who are constantly connected and on the go - with a growing number choosing to travel alone so they can take full control of their holidays and fill it with activities of their choice. Having grown up going on traditional resort holidays with their families, young people are now growing away from this – with the appeal of exploring the world being much more appealing. It is the difference between being a holidaymaker and a traveller that is shaping a new independence, with Eastern Europe allowing people to break free from the traditional summer break and see what else the world has to offer.

The imminence of Brexit has certainly shaped travel patterns, as we are wanting to make the most of the free movement within the EU before we will no longer be able to travel with such ease. The recent performance of the pound compared to the euro has discouraged many when travelling but it is the affordability of Eastern Europe offering more value for money that makes it clear to see why more Brits are favouring this type of holiday over a more traditional one. However, one thing is for certain – we will go anywhere as long as there is a bit of sun.

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