Getaway Brits snub big day

When British Prime Minister David Cameron gave Britain a day off in honour of the royal wedding, he may not have reckoned on the effect.

Instead of pinning up some bunting or jostling for elbow room around the biggest flatscreen in the village on April 29, many British people plan to leave the country and abandon the spectacle of Prince William and Kate Middleton's nuptials to the tourists.

Bookings for foreign breaks have shot up, and online holiday companies say the number of people searching for April getaways is double that of last year.

Travel agents are reporting from 30 per cent to 56 per cent rises in interest in their holidays, and hotels.com says the number of people searching for holidays for the week ending April 29 has increased by 212 per cent on the same time last year.

"It's a bonanza for the foreign travel industry, which I'm sure the Prime Minister wasn't expecting," said Lonely Planet's Tom Hall, who has been inundated with readers looking for advice on the best destinations. "It's an absolutely lovely time to be in the Caribbean.

"And hoteliers are facing an influx of tourists coming into London for the wedding, so it's a good time to leave town."

The extra day off on Friday, April 29, means millions of British workers will enjoy two successive four-day weekends - April 22-25, taking in Good Friday and Easter Monday, and April 29-May 2 for the royal wedding and the May Day bank holiday, with only a three-day working week in between.

"Holidaymakers now need to take only five days of annual leave to benefit from a 14-night holiday," said Richard Calvert, managing director of Thomas Cook holidays.

The most popular destinations are places with plenty of early summer sunshine, such as Turkey, Egypt and the Canaries.

For those keen to avoid the wedding but not able to leave British shores, an alternative event has been set up by a Welsh cultural group: the Escape The Wedding Camp at a campsite near Machynlleth.

"We are giving people an opportunity to escape the razzledazzle and media hype that will take place when the wedding takes place. Not everyone will be celebrating," said a spokesman for the group.

On Oxford St in London, a shop owner admitted that there was little interest in Kate/Wills memorabilia.

"Postcards are doing okay, but it's a lot of Brits writing jokey, bitchy messages."

Tourists were buying Union Jack products for their kitsch appeal.

Paula Hilton, 26, from Lancaster, was in London with her mother Elizabeth, 56, for the weekend.

"I wouldn't come near London on the day," she said. "I'll have a look at the dress in the paper or whatever ..."

Many Londoners, meanwhile, are hoping to cash in on outsiders' enthusiasm.

The city's hotels are racking up prices to take advantage of a possible 500,000 foreign visitors, and the websites Gumtree and London Rent My House have huge numbers of people offering to rent out their homes.

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