Analysis: Just how popular are UK holidays?

Analysis: Just how popular are UK holidays?

A campaign to boost domestic tourism under the slogan ‘Why would you want to go abroad’ has angered the outbound industry. But consumer research suggests it’s cash concerns driving holidaymakers to stay in Britain. Ian Taylor reports

More than two-thirds of UK families plan a UK holiday in 2012, according to consumer research in January. However, the trend appears driven less by love of domestic holidays than by economic uncertainty.

The survey found 70% of families plan a holiday of seven or more nights in the UK this year, up from 59% a year ago. That compares with 52% among non-families, although this proportion was up from 43% last January.

For the first time in years, the survey, of more than 1,000 UK adults by BDRC Continental, suggests the UK is rated marginally higher than western Europe and the Mediterranean as a likely destination for Britons.

This is driven overwhelmingly by economic factors. The survey found 39% of respondents felt it “very likely or fairly likely” they would lose their job “in the near future”. The researchers conclude: “Holidaymaking decisions for 2012 are framed by uncertainty over job security and intentions to spend less money.”

The report suggests it would be more accurate to refer to a domestic holiday as a “savecation” than the “staycation” now popular in the media. However, it argues the situation offers the domestic industry a unique opportunity to impress visitors.

The appeal of the UK appears to have risen just as more people plan to take a domestic holiday.

Researchers asked whether “the UK has become more or less appealing for a main holiday or short break”. A third of respondents (33%) said more appealing, compared with 35% last year but just 19% in 2009.

Families and, in particular, younger families were the most likely to find the UK appealing: 42% of family respondents said the UK had become more appealing compared with 27% of non-families. The gap in perceptions has widened since 2011 when 39% of families and 33% of non-families considered the UK was increasing its appeal.

The proportion of holidaymakers who took a break in the UK and said they would return the following year was also found to have risen, from 79% in 2010 to 88% among those who took a UK holiday last year.

Frustration with air travel appears to have been a major factor in enhancing the appeal of the UK in the past two years, with “the hassle of air travel” identified as the biggest negative factor in travelling abroad. Air travel hassle remained the greatest discouragement to travelling abroad in January’s survey, but with its rating down by one quarter.

The second-biggest factor was the perception that exchange rates make overseas destinations “too expensive”. This had been rated the biggest issue in 2009.

The highest-rated positive factor was the perception that the UK is “cheaper than abroad”, which was some way ahead of the second most-positive factor that the UK is “easier with kids or the elderly”.

The overriding reason people give for going on holiday in the UK is the landscape.

“Good scenery” tops the index for general appeal and has done since the first BDRC survey in 2009. In fact, the UK landscape is rated a greater driver of demand than any other factor, positive or negative.

The research report acknowledges an associated but accidental factor: “The impact of favourable weather in 2011: almost twice as many in the 2012 survey cited this as a reason for finding the UK more appealing.”

It suggests Scotland has overtaken the southwest as the most-popular region for a break, selected by 28% of respondents in January against 27% for the southwest. In 2011 the positions were reversed.

However, Cornwall is the most-popular family destination, particularly among those with children of primary school age. The county has grown enormously in popularity since 2009 – up from 5% of total domestic bookings in 2010 to 12% among early bookers this year.

The Scottish Highlands remains the UK’s most-popular regional destination overall, with 15% of early bookings this year and 13% of total bookings last year.

To purchase BDRC Continental’s ‘Holiday Trends 2012’ report, email or call 020 7400 1010.


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