The fastest-growing tour operator in Great Britain is undoubtedly a company called (appealingly enough) Low-Cost Travel, whose Web site is www.lowcostholidays.com. Last year, it sold vacations in the tropics to 1.2 million Brits, a number that was double the level of business it enjoyed the year before.
A look at some of its air-and-land packages will explain the reason for its prosperity. To the British, who traditionally enjoy lower vacation costs than the residents of any other nation, Low-Cost Travel's prices are still unusually cheap. Using charter flights and sometimes middle-of-the-night departures, it flies its British travelers to tropical destinations (North Africa, Egypt, the Balearics, the Canaries, the Caribbean) for as little as 175 British pounds ($280) round-trip; and for the single most cost-conscious of its passengers, it offers resort hotel rooms for as little as 8 British pounds ($13.20) per person per night (admittedly for very basic accommodations).
But Low-Cost Travel also offers more posh rooms and arrangements for people willing to pay a bit more. I recently priced out its arrangements to Egyptian resorts in winter, scanning the rooms it offers at the beachfront city of Sharm El-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula, and found that you could obtain a really decent oceanfront room for costs that were sharply lower than we Yanks would pay in the Caribbean: at the beachfront Grand Sharm Hotel, 16 British pounds ($26.40) per person per day including all three meals daily; at the beachfront Viva Sharm Resort, 18 British pounds ($29.70) per person per day including all three meals daily; at the 520-room beachfront Sultan Gardens Resort, 36 British pounds ($59.40) per person per day including all three meals daily. And for a round-trip flight between London and Sharm El-Sheikh in the pricey, high-season month of February when the weather in the Sinai is hot but not painfully so, Low-Cost Travel was offering Friday departures at a round-trip cost of 224 British pounds ($369), from London to Sharm El-Sheikh, higher than its usual charge but still moderate.
Now why am I telling you this? Since these are packages from and back to London (and other British cities) for a British clientele, what relevance do they have for you?
Only this: If you have other reasons for a stay in London (or elsewhere in the British Isles), why not consider treating yourself to an all-inclusive, absurdly cheap vacation among the people of Great Britain at the end of your U.K. stay? Why not tack on a week of fun in one of these exotic resorts patronized by English-speaking guests? Low-Cost Travel will sell these vacations to you, and you can easily navigate its very logical Web site.
I'm aware that this column has a number of readers with relatives or friends in Great Britain. If any of them have booked low-cost air-and-land beach packages of the sort marketed by the famous, mass-volume, popularly priced British tour operators (which include Thomson Holidays, as well as Low-Cost Travel), I'd greatly appreciate receiving their descriptions of the experience. What's it like to lie back at Sharm El-Sheikh?