Almost two-thirds of consumers plan to travel abroad in the next year, a market research group has found.
Consumer insight consultancy BVA BDRC’s Holiday Trends report 2020, which polled 1,000 UK adults, has analysed survey answers to predict how consumers may behave in the future.
Although the initial fieldwork was conducted in January 2020, before the impact of coronavirus sent much of the world into lockdown, another wave of research followed in late March.
“The January [report] remains useful in revealing the long-term trends in holiday behaviour,” wrote the study’s authors Jon Young, research director; Tanya Sharapova, research manager; and Hannah Smith, junior research executive.
“It helps us understand which destinations are in or out of favour, without the blinding influence of a global pandemic.”
In recent years, holidaymakers have been deterred from making bookings by the looming spectre of a no-deal Brexit.
However, in 2019 outbound travel’s prospects seemed to improve, with 50% of people more likely than in 2018 to take a holiday in western Europe because of a special offer.
In early 2020, the data shows 71% of Brits were planning an overseas trip this year – 19% of those to the US or Canada and 13% to Asia. More than 50% of respondents were planning a package holiday of more than four nights this year, and 69% of those people made the decision because packaged trips are seen as better value.
Additionally, one in 10 Brits took their main holiday alone last year, especially to long-haul destinations such as Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia. Multigenerational trips were also popular, with 40% of Brits’ main holiday in 2019 with a family member from another generation.
Not everything is shifting, however, as the average length of a main overseas booking remained stable at about 10 nights since 2015.
The top destinations for a short break have held firm as well, with France, mainland Spain and Italy occupying
the top, second and third spots for the past six years.
Only about 40% of holidaymakers had cancelled or expected to call off their trips in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the new wave of research was conducted.
The study suggests traditional holiday spots will be hardest hit by the crisis, with western Europe and the Mediterranean set to experience 11% fewer visitors in 2020 than was forecast for the year in January. North America is also likely to see a 32% drop compared with predictions in the first wave of research.
However, 70% of those who cancelled a longer trip expected to rebook when the FCO lifts the global travel restriction.
Only 17% believed this would come before August, 40% before October and a third did not think it would be changed before 2021.
However, nearly two-thirds of those polled were still seriously considering travelling overseas in the next year.
“Although 63% is the lowest intention in six years of Holiday Trends, it does paint a slightly more optimistic picture than the cancellation figures presented,” said the authors.
They also noted sales and discounts had been successful encouragement to booking following previous downturns, for example in the face of a no-deal Brexit.
When measured in January, popular staycation destinations included the Scottish Highlands, north Wales and the Lake District.
Seaside breaks were 6% less appealing in 2020 than in 2019, after a spike last year which the authors have attributed to a Brexit-induced fear of Europe’s beaches becoming less accessible.
The study predicts the inbound market could be more resilient to the coronavirus pandemic than the outbound sector, without various consumer concerns such as the possibility of airline failure.
It also notes there is limited evidence to say the public will avoid crowded areas in the UK when the lockdown is lifted.
Despite environmental concerns sliding ever more urgently in public consciousness, environmental factors do not seem to be impacting Brits’ holiday intentions.
For example, before the coronavirus lockdown, Holiday Trends found sustainability concerns ranked 25 out of 29 possible influences on destination choice for the past four years. Consumers said weather, price, scenery and friendly locals were all more important factors when choosing their next trip.
The authors believe this is because holidays represent a “welcome escape” from the daily stresses of life, and sustainable tourism is “loaded with negative associations”.
However, as the issue increasingly dominates news headlines, Holiday Trends predicts it could be harder for Brits to block out their guilt, and they will be looking for reassurance. They may be more willing to make small changes. For example, 65% of holidaymakers accept limited access to conservation areas, 59% would enjoy vegetarian meals for a day and 60% would be understanding of a “clear plate” buffet refill policy.
Holiday Trends found online platforms including social media, websites and price comparison sites have been a big influencer on holiday planning, up to 70% in 2019. This is compared with recommendations, traditional advertising or brochures – although the latter still influenced 34% of buyers this year.
One in seven Brits still sought a travel agent’s advice, however, and OTAs were the second most popular method of booking accommodation after direct sell.