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Better home thoughts from abroad.

Byline: NICHOLAS CRAIG

IT'S good news that Hays Travel has bought Freedom Direct, the local travel call centre company which had built a strong reputation for its service.

The problems which subsumed Freedom Direct are facing many other travel companies as the credit crunch continues to nibble away at our annual break.

We are told that this is the year of the "staycation". So popular is this mongrelised word that Collins English Dictionary has it on its shortlist of new words for the next edition.

More than 12 million of us plan to stay at home to enjoy the drizzle this year.

The triple whammy of the credit crunch, strong euro and environmental concerns means that many of us have decided to swap the Costa for a caravan, or to rediscover the delights of home towns from the comfort of our own all-inclusive residence.

Whether we can shift our mindsets from weary commuters to carefree tourists in the same base remains to be seen.

The advantages of a home-based holiday are that you benefit your local economy and you can invite family and friends to share your staycation more economically than is possible abroad. You also save time, stress and costs on all that planning, air travel, car hire and sun cream.

Familiarity is comforting and relaxing. No jet lag, strange foods or struggles with languages. The predictability of slightly disappointing weather is one we have grown used to.

Overseas holidays are imbued with false expectations - we aim to return fitter, browner and refreshed. Instead we land poorer, fatter and more irritable. Holidays at home will be less skewed with feverish, improbable hopes. They may also uncover some fascinating insights into glorious countryside and coast around us.

That is if you can indeed turn off from everyday habits and bury the BlackBerry, turn off the computer, ignore the shelves that need repairing and countless other household chores.

However pleasant they may be, I hope staycations do not become the norm for years to come. The anticipation of new experiences in foreign climes is enriching and exciting. The choice of flight operators and destinations available from the North East brings new visitors and new business winging their way to the region each year.

We need to protect that choice, and in so doing enhance the prospects of companies such as Hays Travel, new owner of Freedom Direct.

Nicholas Craig, Watson Burton law firm
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 8, 2009
Words:402
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