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Yesterday was the start of the traditional winter holiday season for the UK’s largest tour operators Thomson and First Choice. As the UK temperatures plummet, and with the skies set to remain grey, with an average of one hour* of sunshine a day for a few months yet, you can go from SAD to sunseeker, thanks to Thomson and First Choice. There’s a great choice of winter sun holiday destinations to choose from, and despite the increasing levels of taxation on air passengers**, there are some fantastic value for money offers to be had.

Here’s our round-up of the top ten best places to have some fun in the sun this winter:

Close to home:
1) Spain, Costa Del Sol
Average hours of winter sun per day: Six

Just a two hour flight away, Spain is perfect for a spot of short haul sunshine. If that’s enough to put a spring in your step, then the Hotel Yaramar, part of Thomson’s Gold collection, is perfect for you. Over the winter season, the hotel features in Thomson’s Dance Fever range of hotels, where fantastic, interactive entertainment is on tap, such as weekly Spanish flamenco performances. Furthermore, Strictly Come Dancing fans have the perfect opportunity to don their dancing shoes, as from 9 January to 20 March, there’ll be Championship Dancers teaching guests moves to a range of the show’s popular dances, topped off with performances from Strictly’s very own James and Ola Jordan between 14 and 16 March 2011.

Thomson Gold offers seven night holidays to Spain, staying at the 4T Hotel Yaramar from £419 per person, based on two sharing on a half board basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 8 March 2011. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

2) Morocco, Marrakech
Average hours of winter sun per day: Five

From snake charmers to souks and spices – not forgetting featuring in Sex and the City II - Marrakech is a favourite for those seeking a short break for winter sun. Thomson and First Choice offer a range of durations for those seeking flexible holidays this winter For a little luxury, head to the Riu Tikida Palmeraie, part of Thomson’s Platinum collection. There’s an Olympic sized pool to cool off in after a day exploring, and a choice of amazing restaurants, including Moroccan and Italian. Indulge in some pampering at the wellness centre and spa, to make the most of this perfect mini-break winter destination.

Thomson offers four night holidays to Marrakech staying at the 4T Plus Riu Tikida Palmeraie from £265 per person, based on two sharing on an all inclusive basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 13 December 2010. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

Mid haul:
3) Egypt, Aswan
Average hours of winter sun per day: Seven

Holidays to Aswan are new and exclusive to Thomson for the winter. This unique destination is a mecca for culture and history lovers and very different to other Egyptian resorts. Set on the shores of the world’s longest river, this is where Agatha Christie penned the famous ‘Death on the Nile’, and locations don’t come much better than the Movenpick Resort Aswan. This 5T hotel is actually set on Elephantine Island, just a five minute felucca ride from the hustle of the city and sights, including Abu Simbel and the High Dam. It’s the perfect spot for a cultural winter sun holiday.

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Aswan staying at the 5T Movenpick Resort Aswan from £429 per person, based on two sharing on a bed and breakfast basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 29 November 2010. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

4) Egypt, Sharm El Sheikh
Average hours of winter sun per day: Seven

Egypt’s Red Sea coast promises year-round sunshine plus an amazing underwater world just waiting to be discovered. First Choice’s Holiday Village Red Sea is set right on the beach in Nabq Bay. With plenty of activities on offer for families, including a high-rope course, and a zip wire, plus six swimming pools, a Reebok Football Academy, ASA Swim Academy and Razzamataz Dance Academy, kids will be kept busy while mum and dad can enjoy the sunshine and spa treatments on offer.

First Choice offers seven night family holidays to Egypt staying at the 4 Sun Holiday Village Red Sea from £594 per adult, and from £330 for the first child and from £354 for the second child, based on two adults and two children sharing on an all inclusive basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 5 December 2010. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.firstchoice.co.uk or call 0871 200 4455.

5) Turkey, Antalya
Average hours of winter sun per day: Four

Turkey just keeps rising and rising in popularity, and beautiful beaches is not all this country has to offer. Antalya, a brand new winter sun destination for Thomson and First Choice is popular for golfers seeking warmer climes to perfect their swing. It’s home to some excellent courses. The Hotel Baia Lara offers luxurious accommodation along with a whole host of activities, like windsurfing and tennis. There’s a spa boasting 13 massage rooms, and four a la carte restaurants to choose from.

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Antalya staying at the 4T Hotel Baia Lara from £319 per person, based on two sharing on an all inclusive basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 14 December 2010. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

6) Tenerife, Guia De Isora
Average hours of winter sun per day: Six

The Canary Islands have long been a winter holiday favourite, and Tenerife remains the most popular. With the magnificent Mount Teide taking precedence, there’s lots to see and do on this charming island. For ultimate relaxation, head to Guia De Isora, a quiet resort on Tenerife’s western coast. Thomson’s exclusive Sensatori Tenerife Resort is perched here, with unspoilt views of the sea and glorious sunsets. Here you’ll find Europe’s largest swimming pool, deluxe junior suite rooms as standard, plus a mouth watering selection of six restaurants.

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Tenerife staying at the 5T Plus Sensatori Resort Tenerife from £579 per person, based on two sharing on a full board basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 4 December on 2010. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

Further afield:
7) Costa Rica, Guanacaste
Average hours of winter sun per day: Eight

Brand new and exclusive for both Thomson and First Choice this winter, Costa Rica offers so much more than talcum powder beaches. It’s an adventure playground of white water rafting, zip wiring through rainforests, simmering volcanoes, spectacular wildlife, horse riding, river tubing and bathing in waterfalls. Plus, there are some pretty spectacular hotels to choose from too, such as the 4 Sun Plus Riu Guanacaste. Hidden away in acres of Costa Rican forest and right on the beachfront, this grand hotel has got a real back-to-nature feel. But it isn’t all relaxation, for those wanting to venture from their sun beds there are tons of all inclusive facilities including outdoor pools, and watersports.

First Choice offers 14 night holidays to Costa Rica from £1985 per person, including a seven night Grand Tour of Costa Rica on a full board basis and seven nights at the 4 Sun Plus Riu Guanacaste on an all inclusive basis, departing from London Gatwick on 30 November 2010. Price includes UK exclusive direct return flights with Thomson Airways, all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.firstchoice.co.uk or call 0871 200 4455.

8) Dominican Republic, Samana
Average hours of winter sun per day: Six

Also new for this winter for both Thomson and First Choice is the resort of Samana in Dominican Republic. Already a summer destination, the exclusive winter flying programme consists of weekly flights direct to Samana from London Gatwick. The 4T Plus Gran Bahia Principe Cayacoa, part of Thomson Platinum and First Choice Premier collections, is perfect for a romantic winter getaway. Nature lovers can take the unique opportunity for humpback whale-watching off the shore of Samana during February and March. There are also twin-centre opportunities combining a week in Samana with the livelier resort of Puerto Plata.

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Samana staying at the 4T Plus Gran Bahia Principe Cayacoa from £969 per person, based on two sharing on an all inclusive basis. Departing from London Gatwick on 26 January 2011. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

9) Maldives, Chaaya Island Dhonveli
Average hours of winter sun per day: Nine

Winter is the perfect time to escape to the tropical paradise that is the Maldives. Picture perfect white sandy shores, with a turquoise blue lagoon sea, and swaying coconut trees welcome you to this unique part of the world. Underneath the surface, you’ll find an array of marine life, including reef sharks and stringrays. Chaaya Island Dhonveli, which is near the capital, Male, is perfect for those wanting to get away from it all, with gorgeous accommodation, a spa, activities, plus three restaurants.

First Choice offers seven night holidays in the Maldives staying at the 4 Sun Chaaya Island Dhonveli from £999 per person, based on two sharing on an all inclusive basis. Departing from Manchester on 30 November 2010. Price includes return flights, in-resort transfers and all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.firstchoice.co.uk or call 0871 200 4455.

10) Mexico, Riviera Maya
Average hours of winter sun per day: Eight

The winter months are ideal when it comes to a holiday in Mexico. With soaring temperatures and near-guaranteed sunshine, it’s the perfect time to go and explore the Mayan Temples, Chichen Itza, and the Yucatan Peninsula. Sensatori Resort Mexico, one of Thomson’s flagship properties, provides a 24 hour gourmet all inclusive holiday. Set in five star luxury along Riviera Maya, this stunning resort has five themed restaurants offering fantastic cuisine, including Le Chique, with a unique eight course menu. Furthermore, there’s a mojito lounge serving 30 different types of this delicious drink.

Thomson offers seven night holidays to Mexico staying at the 5T Sensatori Resort Mexico from £1024 per person based on two people sharing on a 24 hour gourmet all inclusive basis, departing from London Gatwick on 21 January 2011. Price includes return flights with Thomson Airways, all taxes and surcharges. For more information, visit www.thomson.co.uk or call 0871 231 3235.

OR

Sample the lot with a Caribbean Cruise

Why visit one island in the Caribbean when you can take in ten… and Colombia?! A cruise is the best way to sample multiple destinations in one holiday, and Thomson Dream’s Classic Caribbean itinerary does just that. It takes in all aspects of the Caribbean, from buzzing Cuba to chilled Jamaica, and all that sits in between. Sailing from Havana, where you spend one night (something not all cruise liners offer), the ship will visit Samana, Dom Rep; Road Town, British Virgin Islands; St John’s, Antigua; Castries, St Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; St George’s, Grenada; Willemstad, Curacao; Oranjestad, Aruba; Santa Marta, Colombia and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Thomson Cruises offers a 14-night Classic Caribbean cruise on Thomson Dream from £1349 per person (save £1120 per couple). Departing on the 6 January 2011, the price includes return flights from London Gatwick, East Midlands or Manchester, ship transfers, accommodation for two adults on a full-board basis and all taxes and charges. For more information or to book visit www.thomson.co.uk/cruise or call 0871 231 3243.


ENDS

For more information, please contact Louise Evans at the Thomson and First Choice Press Office on louise.evans@tui-uk.co.uk or call 01582 645369.


Notes to Editors

*According to stats from the Met Office.

**Our view on the increase in APD

Thomson and First Choice believe that every single family has the right to go abroad on holiday and to enjoy some quality time together; unfortunately the Government is making this harder by increasing the levels of taxation on air passengers. The latest tax increases will penalise holidaymakers at a time when disposable incomes are falling for many Britons.

Air Passenger Duty (APD) raises more revenue for the treasury than inheritance tax. Thomson and First Choice recognise the ‘polluter pays’ principle when dealing with aviation emissions, but have never supported APD because its revenue is not specifically directed towards projects that benefit the environment and also because our customers are having to contribute more in taxes than the environmental cost of the CO2 and other gases than our flights emit. The current system does not reward airlines such as Thomson Airways that operate new generation aircraft efficiently and with high load factors or penalize those who airlines perform badly. This is because the charge is based on the number of passengers carried rather than on actual emissions.

In addition, the banding system announced by the previous Chancellor has many anomalies. For example, someone travelling in economy on a business trip to Los Angeles - a 10 or 11-hour flight - will pay less APD than those who have saved for years for their Caribbean holiday of a lifetime, which is only an eight-hour journey. Similarly, those choosing premium economy seats are also penalised. It does not seem right that families seeking a bit of extra legroom on their holiday flight to Florida should be asked to pay the same amount of APD as a businessman flying first class to New York.

The outbound travel industry is a very important part of the UK economy and we continue to work closely with the Government and the Department of Transport to work towards a fairer tax system.”

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of TUI UK in the following categories: Leisure & Hobbies, Travel, for more information visit https://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.