Europe News

Why holidaymakers are flocking to Birmingham, UK

Jessica Morris, special to
Travel trends: City breaks still favorites

The U.K. city of Birmingham is the fastest growing destination for Brits over the Christmas and New Year period, according to travel website

Birmingham — the biggest city in the U.K. after London — has seen a staggering 118 percent increase in hotel bookings for this festive period, according to Expedia. It joins the ranks of more traditional holiday destinations including Sydney, Dublin and Amsterdam, which also saw large increases in the number of hotel bookings.

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According to Expedia, the British public's appetite for German-style Christmas markets is driving Birmingham's new-found popularity. Birmingham's "Frankfurt" Christmas market, which has run for the last 12 years, is now the largest outdoor Christmas market in the U.K., according to the Birmingham council website.

"Birmingham may seem an unlikely contender to typically festive destinations, New York and London. However, it appears that the German market and great shopping options in the city are quickly becoming a central attraction in the annual Christmas calendar," said Andrew Washington, managing director at Expedia.

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Expedia noted that Birmingham's market is the biggest Germanic Christmas market outside of Germany. It seems that Brits are snubbing the continent in favor of the Midlands — the area of central England in which Birmingham is located — to get their gluhwein and bratwurst fix.

"Christmas markets are hugely popular at the moment," Andrew Warner, senior marketing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Expedia, told CNBC. "Birmingham is up about 100 percent in hotel bookings. It's part of this Christmas market trend. They've put on a big Christmas market this year and they're reaping the dividends."

Birmingham sits alongside more typical city break destinations including Dublin, Amsterdam and Brussels, which also experienced a significant rise in the number of hotel bookings for the Christmas and New Year period 2013/14. Overall, cities remain holidaymakers' top choices for a festive break, with New York, London and Paris the most popular destinations.

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But British sun-seekers were undeterred and continued looking for beachside holiday destinations. Sydney saw a 93 percent increase in bookings and the Spanish Canary Islands saw a 91 percent rise.

"Although Australia is one of the further destinations from the U.K., it seems Brits are not being deterred when booking a winter break to Sydney," said Washington. He added: "The chance to combine New Year celebrations in the Sun with the last test of the Ashes (cricket tournament) in Sydney is an opportunity not to be missed."

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