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    Holidaymakers will get off to a slow start this year

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    The beginning of the summer holiday period next week will not see the usual rush of traffic towards holiday destinations, according to a forecast by the motoring organisation VAB.

    Instead, the build-up will get off to a slow start, reaching the normal holiday peak only in mid-July, the organisation said in a statement.

    For Belgians, the pressure points are the French motorways in the direction of the south. However thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, followed by national restrictions on movements between countries, many people are adapting their holiday plans for the summer, regardless of the fact that many restrictions are now lifted.

    A sizeable number of Belgians (37% of those polled) is not planning a foreign holiday at all until September, VAB found in a survey of members. Others plan to depart only on or after July 18.

    By coincidence, that happens to be the weekend when most French people leave on holiday, after spending the national day of July 14 at home.

    For Belgians, meanwhile, the tendency is to holiday mainly in neighbouring countries this year – the Netherlands, France and Germany in the top three planned destinations.

    Younger families tend to prefer France, with 31% of preferences among those aged 31-45.

    Judging by the purchase of vignettes for motorway travel, the preference goes to France and Germany, while Switzerland and Austria lag behind compared to last year’s figures.

    VAB members, the survey shows, are aware of the dangers of departing on the wrong day – namely what the organisation calls the ‘Black Saturdays’ of July 18 and the three first Saturdays of August.

    As a result, 44% have chosen to leave on a weekday other than Friday, 23% on Friday itself, 20% on Sunday, and only 13% taking their chance on Saturday nonetheless.

    In other results of the poll:

    One in three plans not to stop along the way for 30 minutes or more
    10% plan to travel by night
    17% intend to avoid passing by Paris
    But 21% will take the Autoroute du Soleil, regardless of it being a virtual summertime roadblock
    37% of those heading for Italy plan to use the Gotthard tunnel, despite it also being a notorious bottleneck.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times