Holidaymakers have focused on preserving and investing in their longer overseas breaks as they become more cost-conscious when it comes to their holiday spending, according to ABTA’s latest Holiday Habits report.
The report finds that in the 12 months to August 2018, people took more longer foreign holidays. The number of foreign holidays of 7+ nights has increased over the last two years rising to an average of 1.0 per person in 2018, up from 0.9 in 2017 and 0.7 in 2016. Six in ten Brits (60%) took a foreign holiday in the 12 months to August 2018, up from 57% the previous year, and the highest figure since 2011.
The Western Mediterranean welcomed millions of UK holidaymakers, with Spain and Portugal continuing to be a popular choice for package holidays. Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean also had a good summer – with Greece up 10% and Turkey enjoying a 65% rise in visitors, along with Bulgaria which welcomed 21% more Brits on packages than last year.*
At the same time, the number of UK holidays taken fell, from an average of 2.1 in 2017 to 1.8 this year. A prolonged cold spell followed by the ‘Beast from the East’ bringing a deluge of snow to the UK in March is thought to have dampened demand for holidaying at home after two very strong years for domestic tourism. 68% of the population took a UK holiday in the 12 months to August 2018, down from 72% last year.
British holidaymakers increasingly cost-conscious
Increasing pressures on household finances and a weak Pound, particularly against the Euro, have made many British holidaymakers increasingly cost-conscious in their holiday choices.
Household budgets are being squeezed through increased energy bills and food costs and the second interest rate rise in a decade in 2018. While Eurozone destinations like Spain and Greece have maintained their popularity in the past 12 months, people are offsetting the impact of a weaker Pound through tighter budgeting. Value for money has increased as a priority when choosing a package holiday (up to 60%) and holidaymakers have also cut back on their spending money while away, both in the UK and abroad. The average spend is down £24 (£586 to £562) for longer holidays abroad and £40 (£311 to £271) for longer holidays in the UK, showing that people are trimming some of their holiday costs.
People taking fewer shorter breaks
As well as taking fewer UK breaks, people have also cut back on the number of shorter breaks, at home and abroad, in the past 12 months. The number of short breaks (1-3 nights) in the UK has fallen slightly from 1.3 to 1.1 per person, and the number of short foreign breaks from 0.4 to 0.3.
This picture is reinforced by a 5% fall in the number of people saying they took a city break in the past 12 months, although city breaks remain the nation’s favourite type of holiday.
Outlook for the year ahead
Looking at holiday plans for next year, it is very clear that travel is still a spending priority. Just over half (51%) of people plan to spend the same on holidays next year. While the number of people who plan to spend more (25%) is down on last year (31%), there is no change in the number of people who say they will spend less, which stands at 14% for both 2017 and 2018.
Early indications show that holiday bookings for summer 2019 are up 19%* on this time last year. Europe tops the list of destinations people most wish to visit, with 61% saying they plan to take a trip there in the next 12 months. However, more than half of people (54%) say they are concerned about the impact Brexit will have on the cost of their holiday, up 3% on last year (51%), so it suggests people will be looking for value for money for the coming year.
The demand for a value for money package holiday has already fuelled a surge in bookings to Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt in summer 2018. Forward bookings to these destinations are looking strong as people seek a value for money sunshine break.
Destinations where the Pound goes further are set to be popular in the year ahead. Asia looks set to have a positive year with 13% of people planning to travel there in the next 12 months, up 3% from last year. Holidaymakers will be drawn to the low-cost long-haul flights now flying to a variety of Asian destinations, the relatively favourable exchange rate and low costs in destination.
On the domestic front, this summer’s lengthy heatwave is likely to provide a boost for UK tourism, with people hoping for a repeat of the glorious weather.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said:
“Despite pressures on household incomes, Britons are clearly wedded to their holidays, with travel a spending priority. Holidaymakers are becoming increasingly cost-conscious, seeking value for money and budgeting more wisely in their holiday choices.
“We’re at a unique juncture in the UK’s history as the nation counts down to leaving the EU, so naturally more people’s thoughts turn to what Brexit means for travel. People understandably have questions and concerns about what impact Brexit may have on the cost of travel but it is very encouraging that Europe tops the bill as the place they wish to visit next year, and holiday bookings more widely are looking positive for the year ahead.
Notes to editors
The full report is available to download from abta.com/holidayhabits2018.
Consumer research was conducted by Arkenford Ltd (www.arkenford.co.uk) who specialise in leisure and tourism market research. The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated responses from a nationally representative sample of 2,001 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to August 2018. Fieldwork was conducted between the end of July and beginning of August 2018.
*Data sourced from GfK’s Travel Insights service. Travel Insights is a point of sale service measuring transactional booking data from tour operators and travel agents for outbound leisure travel from the UK.