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Winter breaks for thousands in the north-east – but remember your rights as consumers

As nearly 700,000 holidaymakers prepare to jet away from Newcastle International Airport for Christmas and New Year winter breaks, a warning note has been sounded by travel experts concerning some foreign hotels.

The festive season looks likely to be especially busy for the north-eastern travel hub, with passengers hoping to dodge British wintry conditions for warmer locations.

From now until the beginning of March, airport officials expect almost 700,000 to be boarding holiday jets for popular resorts in Malta, the Canaries, Dubai and Egypt.

Opportunities

Winter sun and consumer rights

Christopher Sanders, Newcastle's Aviation Development Director, said the festive season offers holidaymakers significant opportunities for winter sun.

"Cold or damp and dull days are the ideal prompt to be thinking of taking advantage of cheap overseas holidays and flights this winter," Mr Sanders said. "With 4 airlines now flying to Tenerife there's plenty of choice of when to go and how long for."

Mr Sanders noted that Malta has adopted "a whole new air, appealing to passengers of all ages". He added that the destination offers many cafés and bars and "a special experience" unique to the Mediterranean island.

Middle East: a popular choice

For people wanting to broaden their horizons, Mr Sanders said the Middle East – in particular Dubai and Egypt – is also popular.

"Egypt is seeing increasing numbers of holidaymakers," he observed. "Now with Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada operating from Newcastle there is more choice."

He added that, for those seeking an unusually exotic base for the season's festivities, daily Dubai flights with Emirates Airlines mean holidays and weekend breaks in the MidEast are easily obtainable.

"Dubai is also a great place to stay for a few days before continuing onwards to an idyllic destination in the India Ocean such as the Maldives, Mauritius or the Seychelles."

Warning

holiday illness complaints

Amid the travel industry's enthusiasm for overseas winter package breaks, however, caution has been voiced by legal experts.

"Expectant holidaymakers should note that dozens of Britons each year fall ill due to failing standards of hotel hygiene," said Nick Harris, head of international holiday travel law at Simpson Millar LLP.

"To choose one example among many, recently we were instructed by 20 guests of a well-known, all-inclusive hotel on the Red Sea coast, who variously tested positive for Salmonella, Cryptosporidium and E-Coli."

Persistent mistakes by operators and hotels

"In April package holidaymakers were placed on IV drips in hospital after a possible outbreak of food poisoning at a Thomas Cook location, despite the fact that dozens suffered similarly at the same hotel in 2013."

"The big worry is the number of hotels and their UK agents who don't seem to learn by their mistakes."

Compensation

Nick added that it is important to try and research a range of hotels.

"Note those that have a poor record of guests' complaints," he said. "And don't forget, your rights are covered by Package Travel Regulations, so if the hotel or the operator fall short in respect of hygiene or by not living up to their publicity claims, you could have a case for compensation."

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