Costa Brava, north of Barcelona
The traditional two-week summer holiday abroad has lost its attraction with Britons, with travellers favouring shorter breaksReuters

The traditional two-week summer holiday abroad has fallen out of favour with Britons, with travellers favouring shorter city breaks and seven-day trips.

The popularity of three-day trips almost trebled to 4.3 million holidays in 20 years since 1996, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Seven-day breaks more than doubled to 11.5 million holidays over same period, while 10-day trips almost trebled to 6.3 million holidays.

This contrasted with the traditional 14-day getaway, which has fallen by 28% to 3.8 million holidays over the last two decades.

The ONS said the likely explanation for these changes was that Britons go on more, shorter holidays because "the growth of the budget airlines" has made travel cheaper.

It added that during the 1980s and 1990s the European Union relaxed air restrictions across the continent, allowing budget airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair to compete for routes.

Britons took more than 45 million holidays last year, a 68% jump on 20 years ago, although the population rose by only 12% over the same period. Last year's holiday figure almost hit its pre-crisis peak.

But the survey pointed out the British "are making far fewer day-trips abroad than they did 20 years ago" because of the decline of the booze cruises across the channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes.

Duty-free sales within the EU ended in 1999, France has been "ratcheting up the price of cigarettes since 2000", and the pound has fallen in value against the euro recently, the report said, making these trips less attractive.

The top destinations for British tourists has changed little over the last two decades, with Spain, France and Italy leading the way. Although cruises entered the top ten destinations for the first time with the ONS putting this down to the rise in Britain's ageing population.

Three countries that were among the biggest fallers in regard to British tourism over the last 20 years were Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia, which have all seen rises in Islamic terrors attacks that targeted holidaymakers in recent years.