Special Report: Finally a reason to love the lousy UK weather

Special Report: Finally a reason to love the lousy UK weather

Research suggests poor summer weather in the UK was the biggest factor prompting Britons to book a holiday abroad. Ian Taylor reports

You would expect lousy weather to make more people want a holiday in the sun, and consumer research by TNS suggests it has had precisely that effect this summer.

A TNS survey of more than 1,000 UK adults concludes that poor weather in late spring and early summer “definitely contributed to changes in priorities, with consumers increasingly seeking a good deal to escape”.

The TNS Travel Choices Survey looked at factors influencing consumer holiday decisions at the start of the year and in late June.

Researchers presented a list of factors that might influence consumers’ holiday plans: the exchange rate of the pound, the price of fuel, the weather, the desire for a good deal, job security, the euro crisis, fear of an airline or travel company going bust, security concerns and so on.

They found almost all concerns diminished between January and June other than the weather and the cost of going away.

One in four respondents (26%) identified the weather as the most important factor affecting their holiday thinking in June, up from 22% in January.

The desire for a good‑value deal was identified by 23%, up a percentage point from January.

All other factors faded in significance. For example, the proportion identifying concern about the exchange rate fell from 13% to 11%. The euro crisis concerned just 7%, down a percentage point on January. And concern about travel companies going bust fell from 10% to 7%.

When allowed to choose three concerns, weather was a major factor for 56% in June, compared with 54% in January.

Almost all other concerns diminished between January and June apart from price and job security, which remained on a par with the start of the year.

TNS also asked consumers whether they were more or less likely to book a European beach holiday, European city break or holiday beyond Europe. In each case, the proportion declaring they were ‘more likely’ to go abroad rose significantly between January and June: the proportion ‘more likely’ to take a European beach holiday rose from 13% 
to 20%.

On the downside, the ‘net likelihood’ of taking a holiday – the sum of those more likely to go away and those less likely – remained negative in June.

The TNS results appear to fit with latest Office for National Statistics figures. These show overseas holiday bookings for the year to date 2% down in July on the same time last year.

Holiday departures in July were broadly flat despite the difficult economic environment. However, this followed a terrific June when departures were up 6% on June 2011 – mainly due to the extra holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee and the move of Whitsun from May.

Though the boom in June still left a decline over the year to date, a 2% drop is half the year-on-year decline in departures during last year’s summer peak (-4% in July-September 2011) and comes after 2012 began with a year-on-year decline of 12% in January.

It is too soon to draw firm conclusions, but the figures could suggest the worst is over for the outbound market – provided there is no fresh sharpening of the debt crisis in Europe. This is by no means certain, of course.

However, the positive move in consumer sentiment since the start of the year gives grounds for optimism.

TNS interviewed 1,022 UK adults on June 26-28 and January 6-9

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