It must be one of the biggest bugbears for parents across the UK; the spike in prices of holidays during the half and summer terms. And for one man, he had just about had enough, when he clocked the outrageous increase in costs on the Centre Parcs website. Paul Cookson was in the process of booking a holiday for himself and his daughter, when he spotted the enormous increase in price during term times. He was so incensed at the rip off that he copied the price list to his Facebook page and within hours the post had gone viral.
The listing on Centre Parcs clearly showed the difference in price during school term and the holidays, with an increase of around £300 for each booking for half term. Cookson posted these price increases on his FB page, with the message: “I decided after the overwhelming response from my rant that went viral to open a group so people can post there feelings and also proof (Not that it needs much!) of how some holiday companies inflate their pricing for the school holidays – Parents alike I am sure do not want to take there children out of the school term but if they want to take the family away have no option as it is far cheaper – I think most parents agree and prefer to take children away during the set school holiday period – together parents can make a difference.”
And with around 250 friends he did not expect the huge reaction that his post created. Many of his friends agreed with his rant and shared the post, so much so that it made the national media. So far, more than 143,000 people have shared the post and supporters have now set up an online petition asking for government intervention. The petition has now reached over the 100,000 signatures needed, which means that it will now be debated in Parliament.
Cookson spoke to the BBC and admitted his surprise of the Facebook reaction. He has now set up the FB group – Holiday Price Increase, where people can share their experiences of holiday price hikes. Cookson, who lives in Devon, said that when the petition was first set up it garnered around 3,000 signatures. He said: “I thought it was exactly what I would’ve started, so thought I may as well help it along.” The woman who started the petition, mum of two Donna Thresher, from Essex, said she was “outraged” at the £600 difference in the cost of taking her family away for a weekend during the holidays. Her petition is calling for a cap on holiday prices during school holidays, and said that the petition was “dead in the water” until Cookson’s Facebook post sparked up more interest.
It is not sure whether the combined Facebook attack and the e-petition will have any impact on the holiday companies, but Cookson hopes that it might make some of them change their policies. He said: “The ideal is to work with the holiday companies directly to advise them on the business of reduced-priced holidays in these set times – it can be done.”
The petition and Facebook rant come after one couple from Shropshire who took their children on a week-long holiday during term time were fined £1,000 in costs and fines by magistrates.
One holiday company had a different view about the pricing structure, and stated that their costs were actually reduced in off peak times and were set as standard during holidays. A solution put forward by the Dept of Education suggested that schools could all have different term times and holiday periods, but the National Union of Teachers ruled this to be unworkable, saying that different term times would cause ‘chaos’ for people booking.
You can check out the Holiday Price Increase Facebook page.