Abta sees grounds for optimism among holiday firms despite tough market conditions, following research among consumers.
The association released the results of an annual survey among 2,000-plus consumers at the start of the Travel Convention in Croatia today, suggesting eight out of ten Britons took a holiday in the UK or abroad in the 12 months to August.
The results are on a par with a year ago and confirm a significant minority believe a holiday is 'a necessity', with one in five (21%) feeling this way about a longer overseas holiday and one in ten (11%) a holiday in the UK.
More than a quarter (26%) of respondents over 55 saw a longer holiday overseas as a necessity. At the same time, holidays were the discretionary item respondents felt least willing to cut back.
The survey found UK consumers would rather cut back on other leisure activities, clothes, electronic gadgets, home improvements or eating out than cut back on a holiday. However, the average number of holidays per person - both at home and abroad - appears to have fallen year on year.
Respondents took an average 3.1 holidays in the UK or overseas in the 12 months to August, down from 3.5 holidays in the previous 12 months. Only those aged 55-64 bucked the trend by taking more breaks per person in the period.
The most significant fall was among those aged 16-24, who took one holiday less than last year on average – a reduction from 4.7 to 3.7 holidays in the 12 months to August.
The survey found 22% identified a desire for sunshine as the main reason for taking an overseas holiday, leading Abta to suggest the UK's summer heatwave contributed to the fall in number of holidays per person.
The association also suggested consumers had cut the number of holidays overall to fund their main holidays, leading to a rise in the number of people going abroad for seven or more nights but a drop in the number heading overseas for less than six nights.
Abta said the findings pointed to consumers starting to feel more confident about their finances. One in five respondents said they anticipated spending more on holidays next year against 16% who anticipated spending less.
Younger adults aged 16-24 appeared most positive about next year, with 29% saying they would spend more on holidays and 13% less.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "The heatwave undoubtedly had an impact on the lates market. After many poor summers in the UK people chose to enjoy the weather at home.
"However, there is more optimism for next year with a greater number of consumers anticipating they will spend more on holidays than those anticipating they will spend less - a shift in attitudes compared with last year."
He added: “It’s clear Brits are keen to preserve their main annual holiday."
The online survey of 2,008 UK adults was conducted on Abta's behalf by research firm Arkenford in August and related to holiday bookings in the previous 12 months.
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