Leap in overseas bookings as UK holidaymakers escape the big freeze this Christmas

Holiday firms have reported a leap in bookings for overseas holidays as people attempt to escape further bad weather in the UK.

Holiday firm Travel Counsellors reported a 20 per cent increase in bookings, with a large rise in the number of people opting for a break over Christmas and into January.

Sunbathers are pictured on Miami beach in Florida

Hot spot: Searches for trips to Miami had risen almost 700% on one website

Travel Counsellors said destinations outside the eurozone such as Egypt and Turkey were proving popular as well as all-inclusive trips. It added that more people were opting for 10-11 night breaks rather than the traditional two weeks.

Online travel company www.lowcostholidays.com also said its website traffic was up 60 per cent since the first snow fell while Hotels.com reported a huge rise in searches on its site for holidays in Miami.

Lowcostholidays.com said top searches on its site were for holidays to the Canary Islands, Dubai and Thailand.  Top short-break destinations were Madrid and Barcelona.

Hotels.com said searches to Miami had risen almost 700 per cent compared with the same time last year. The next-biggest rise was for Granada in Spain, followed by Florence in Italy and Orlando in Florida.

Hotels.com communications director Alison Couper said: 'With the cold weather predicted to stay over December, it's evident holidaymakers want to get as far afield as possible.'

The news comes as forecasters warned that another arctic blast will bring more snow and bitterly cold temperatures to the UK this week.

With many areas only just getting over the snowstorms earlier this month, another band of snow is set to sweep down across the country on Thursday.

Holidaymakers are pictured sunbathing on the beach in Alanya, Turkey

Beach bargains: Destinations outside the eurozone, such as Turkey, have been proving popular with UK tourists

Temperatures will also fall as low as minus 10C (14F), with bitter winds blowing in from the north. The worst-hit areas are forecast to be north-east Scotland and eastern England, which were among the snowiest areas over the past two weeks. Only the far south west looks set to escape the latest wintry blast.

Andy Ratcliffe, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: 'On Thursday a cold front will move south across the UK. This will give rain initially, but it will turn to snow on its back edge.'

Scotland woke up to widespread icy roads today after a freezing night, with the rest of the UK seeing temperatures in the low single figures.

Airports, trains and roads were all badly disrupted by the cold spell earlier this month.

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