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EDITIONS
Friday, 21 June, 2002, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Parents offered holiday discounts
It can be expensive to travel during the school holidays
Travel agents are offering discounts to families who book to go on holiday outside of term-time.

The scheme is the brainchild of Kingston Council in South West London.

It wanted to do something about the large number of parents who take their children out of school to take advantage of cheaper holiday prices.

The council has persuaded three of the main local travel agents to offer discounts of between 5% and 10% to families of children at Kingston schools.

Difficult issue

Families can save hundreds of pounds by booking to travel outside of peak-times, so the temptation to take children out of school is great.

The Kingston scheme was dreamt up by the borough's chief education welfare officer, Ming Zhang.

He said 2,500 school days were lost in the borough each year because of holidays.


It's not a big discount, but it just might tip the scales for some families

Barry Collins, Travelharbour
"The issue of term-time holidays is a very difficult one to tackle," he said.

"It's a big problem. More days are lost through this than through truancy.

"You could call parents irresponsible for taking their children out of school, but they would say they had worked hard all year and needed a break which they might not be able to afford in the summer holidays."

The council wrote to all the local travel agents, but most said their profit margins were too small to offer discounts.

But American Express Travel Services, Travelharbour and Superclubs said they would take part.

'Right direction'

Barry Collins, the general manager of Travelharbour says the company is offering a 5% discount on selected holidays.

"It's been a tough time in the travel industry since 11 September and profit margins are narrow, but we wanted to enter into the spirit of this," he said.

"It's not a big discount, but it just might tip the scales for some families."

Mr Collins estimates that a holiday which costs 500 in August could be bought for about 350 if someone was travelling in May or June.

He thinks Kingston's scheme is a step in the right direction.

"Tour operators are not going to put their prices down in the summer," he said.

"They know they can fill their planes and beds in July and August, when at other times they might be running at a loss."

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"It may not be enough for parents"
See also:

02 May 02 | UK Education
02 May 02 | UK Education
04 Oct 01 | UK Education
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