UK vacationers can guarantee a place in the sun _ for a fee

LONDON — British package holiday travelers used to having to rush to secure poolside lounge chairs first thing in the morning can now sleep in.

Travel company Thomas Cook is offering to reserve poolside chairs for a fee of 25 euros ($31) per person per stay, sparing its guests the morning dash to put a towel on a lounger to claim it for the day.

British travelers to southern Europe have long complained that diehard sun worshippers — especially the German ones — get up early and claim loungers as soon as hotel pools open and hog the spaces all day, even when they aren't beside the water. Videos on social media have captured moments that resemble stampedes as pools open and guests race in, tossing towels on choice spots.

The Sun tabloid splashed the story on its front page Monday, showing a poolside lounge chair draped in a Union Jack with the headline "Brits beat Germans by booking sunbeds. Wish you were here?"

Just to show the feeling is mutual, the Germans counter that the Brits are the real sun lounge lizards. The popular newspaper Bild, for example, noted "Wait a minute: the Brits are worse than the Germans, aren't they?"

Thomas Cook, the British travel company credited with inventing the package holiday, points no fingers, sticking with careful neutrality.

Instead, the company insists its policy is about choice. Anyone can pay for a little marker on the poolside chair that denotes a reserved seat. The plan should cover 30 hotels by the summer.

Thomas Cook says the loungers will be displayed on a map featuring a compass to help people determine whether certain areas will be in the sun or shade at different times of day. Only a portion of loungers will be bookable, so travelers who don't want to pay extra can vie for sunny spots in the poolside equivalent of open seating — just like before.

"Traditional package holidays are a thing of the past," said Thomas Cook's U.K. Managing Director Chris Mottershead. "Holidaymakers today want to personalize their package, mixing and matching the elements that best fit their needs and lifestyle."

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