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 thenews.pl 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?