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Holidaymakers could swap Spain for Belgium amid summer heatwaves, says Tui boss

Extreme weather events, such as the heatwave and wildfires in southern Europe this summer, could see holidaymakers opting for breaks in Belgium and Nordic countries, according to the boss of the UK’s second biggest tour operator.

Sebastian Ebel, chief executive of holiday giant Tui, predicted that people will choose cooler destinations and travel in shoulder months, reports the Financial Times.

“There will be changes,” said Mr Ebel, adding that there will be a “focus on new destinations like the Nordics, Belgium and Holland.”

He predicted that perennial favourites with more moderate climates, such as the Canary Islands, will also see a boost in popularity, while Tui – one of the world’s leading tourism groups – looks into extending its seasons into spring and autumn.

Mr Ebel has already confirmed that Tui will operate holidays in Greece into the middle of November, and described bookings in this period as “really strong”.

A recent report by The Independent explored how the climate crisis will change how people holiday, with one expert warning that, if southern Europe continues to experience soaring 40C+ temperatures, “you won’t be able to have a traditional beach holiday”.

However, Mr Ebel believes the traditional summer break will remain popular with the vast majority of travellers.

“Is that a threat to the business around the Mediterranean? No, it gives us more opportunities for growth,” the Tui boss said.

The company evacuated 8,000 guests from the Greek island of Rhodes amid wildfires in July – though Mr Ebel contends that the situation was “not as it was described”, reports BBC News.

The disruptions cost Tui a reported €25m, with Mr Ebel confirming a “small slip” in bookings during the crisis, though this “has now normalised”, he added.

The firm stated that 80 per cent of its customers on the island were unaffected by the fires, and that bookings are 5 per cent higher than this time last year, as the industry continues to recover following the pandemic.

Tui has reported its first profitable early summer since before Covid-19 struck, with pre-tax earnings in the three months to the end of June of €169.4m, an enormous jump compared to the loss of €27m for the same period in 2022.

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