Holidays: Home or Away?

It’s that time of the year… you’ve been working hard without a break for a few months, and your ‘legally mandated’ period of 2 weeks off work is upcoming. Now for the key question – where shall we go? It’s probably a curse of modern times that there is almost too much choice out there, in most cases, but especially so in terms of holiday options. For those that have some disposable income, the prospect of a week or two away is not just an option now, but seen as a necessity. But, do you go for a city trip, a sun-soaked loungeabout or a nature trip hiking through hills and mountains? Living in Poland gives fairly easy access to all three and more.

Traditionally Poles would have considered ‘local’ holiday options as the priority in the past, with the restrictions of communism limiting possibilities in terms of location and how much money could be spent. This seems to have developed a strong culture of spending winter/spring in the mountains, while summers would involve trips to the Baltic seaside. People were not just limited to Poland also though, as I’ve heard plenty of stories of trips (usually by car or bus) to Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria or other locations also behind the ‘Iron Curtain‘.

Cheaper fuel, inexpensive flight options and the expansion of the package holiday culture to Poland have then given the options of Mallorca, Fuerteventura, the Algarve, Greece and Cyprus to the available plans of Poles. Even with quite high temperatures in summer and the prospect of a few weeks of sun and ~30 degree heat in Poland – some sea, sand and sangria combined with the sun is an intoxicating prospect. Thus, the recent ‘turbulence’ in the Polish travel industry has made some think twice about how and where they would like to take holidays. Within the past 4-5 weeks, 7 Polish travel agencies have gone out of business. The actual impact of some of the closures could be seen as small, with some of the agencies being more local in size, but when some of the larger ones such as Sky Club and Triada are affecting over 23,000 stranded tourists, this begins to hit the thinking of anyone considering holiday travel. The thought of being stranded in Egypt, Greece or Bulgaria seems a real prospect and while most travellers would look forward to a week or two there as part of a pre-paid package, being stuck there longer than required gives a shock to the system.

Summarising the ripple effect of such closures in the travel industry has been the bankruptcy of the airline OLT Express within the past few days. The German parent company of the Polish affiliate decided that they could not put any further money into OLT Express. The news seemed to come suddenly also. I had a work colleague who found out on the morning of her flight with OLT between Kraków and Poznań about 10 days ago that it was cancelled due to the company bankruptcy. This closure too, has also affected Poles, not just in terms of travel but also with 800 job losses, according to the OLT homepage. The cause of seeing multiple closures in a small time period will surely be something worth investigating. The companies themselves can probably cite a number of contributing factors, such as the economic down-turn, proliferation of internet options and competition from other providers being to blame. However, the managerial planning and strategy has to be at fault also, with the report from indicating that the national Prosecutors Office will be investigating potential fraudulent involvement in the collapse of Sky Club.

Finally, we are left with the question, “What are the options now in Poland, when considering holidays?” With ever more consumers becoming more and more internet-savvy, that will have to be the first option when considering holiday options. With less people-involvement, it can happen that there are further offers and options online, as long as you are willing to do some of the leg-work yourself. Last-minute websites and travel aggregators are now showing more and more offers to entice buyers, and if you are willing to ‘break up’ holiday plans by booking hotel and flights individually, and thus taking more risk yourself, it can be rewarding also.

I also expect that Poles will turn back to Poland (and central Europe also) as a short term backlash against the travel agency closures. But there will still be many that fancy the sun, sea and sand combination. So, the questions will be: Hel or Heraklion? Mazuria or Malta? Kraków or Kreta?

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4 thoughts on “Holidays: Home or Away?

  1. Scatts says:

    In recent years we have developed a system of winter holiday in a city and then summer somewhere warm and relaxing. So, both main holidays are away from Poland. We use local trips like Mazury or mountains or seaside or Krakow to “fill the gaps”, things like Majówka. That’s partly why we are so knackered now, because Majówka got taken up by a whole lot of komunia stress.

    We’ve done recently Paris and Rome with Barcelona lined up for late January 2013. Each for a week. Obviously it’s not the best weather that time of year but it is milder than Poland and has the advantage of not being stuffed full of tourists. Summer is usually something like we have coming up now, Tuscany, and if possible for 3 weeks to make sure we actually do have a chance to relax.

    I appreciate that for Americans the idea of so much holiday is lunacy but in my opinion people need regular and meaningful breaks, especially if they have demanding jobs.

    We gave up with any kind of travel agency or package tours years ago. Everything is researched and booked through the Internet and the only budget airlines we trust to keep afloat are Wizz Air and Ryanair. I do feel sorry for those caught out by these insolvencies but it happens so often that people should be very aware of the risk they are taking. A bit more effort on their part would probably have significantly reduced their risk at little or no extra cost and very probably resulted in a better holiday as well.

    Watch out for forthcoming Tuscan posts on Polandian straight from my Blackberry via the power of “posting by email”. Mind you, we really do need a bit of peace and quiet so there won’t as much “and here’s Sienna and here’s Florence and here’s Pienza and here’s Motepulciano and here’s San Gimignano………” as in previous years. Partly because we’ve done all that. Then again, every chance we’ll be bored after a few days!

  2. Bob says:

    Not having kids we tend to travel in the shoulder seasons. That way we get the same great weather but without the crowds.

    In terms of the travel agency issues, it is almost impossible for the free enterprise system to control what happens behind the scenes and one does not know if an agency is in jeopardy of failing. However with that said, I would suggest that given the problems, Poland enact some type of requirements that force all ticketing to be backed up by ‘performance insurance’. This would be underwritten by the insurance company and paid for by, the client of course within the price of the tickets but will guarantee the payment of the full trip in the event of agency failure. Something must be done as the poor clients are suffering.

  3. […] a certain charm about it, although more and more Poles will find themselves choosing between going abroad or staying at home for their summer holidays. The seaside has personal historical significance for many Poles as it […]

  4. Catherine Steele says:

    There are a number of interesting features about Poland which my family and I noticed during our short stay. The number of beggars are very minuscule – one could get away by saying there are no beggars. For this year, we are planning
    family holidays to greece 2013.

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