21 Oct

Holidays still a priority for Brits despite continued tough market conditions

ABTA Consumer Trends Survey 2013 highlights state of the holiday market

Tough market conditions remain in 2013 but optimism appears to be returning to the market, suggest the findings of ABTA’s Consumer Survey 2013*.

Eight in ten (80%) Brits took a holiday either in the UK or abroad in the 12 months to August 2013, which was on a par with the same time period in 2012. For many Brits a holiday is a necessity they cannot do without, with one in five (21%) feeling this way about a longer overseas holiday and one in ten (11%) for a longer holiday in the UK. Over a quarter (26%) of those aged over 55 say that a longer holiday overseas is a necessity they couldn’t do without.

Additionally, holidays came out on top as the item consumers would be most unwilling to cut back on; this is particularly true amongst men. Brits would rather cut back on other leisure activities, clothes, new electronic gadgets, home improvement and eating out throughout the year before they cut back on a holiday.

Decrease in number of holidays per person

The average number of holidays taken per person by Brits both at home and abroad fell slightly compared to the same time period the previous year. UK consumers took an average of 3.1 holidays in the UK or overseas, a decrease from 3.5 in 2012. The “Baby Boomers” bucked the trend with those aged 55-64 taking more breaks per person in the past 12 months than the previous 12 months.

The most significant decrease was amongst young travellers aged 16-24, taking an average of one holiday per person less than last year – down from 4.7 on average in 2012 to 3.7 in 2013.

Table 1.1 – Average number of holidays taken per person 2012-13

  12 months to August 2013 12 months to August 2012
Average number of UK holidays taken 1.9 2.1
Average number of overseas holidays taken 1.2 1.4
Total holidays per person (overseas + UK) 3.1 3.5

Impact of the UK summer heatwave

ABTA believes the heatwave in the UK may have contributed to the fall in the number of holidays per person as good UK weather usually increases the feel good factor. 2013 started off strongly in terms of bookings but saw a significant fall in the lates market in July and August when the UK experienced a heatwave.  This is perhaps not surprising when considering that the weather is the main factor that drives Britons’ love of overseas holidays, with almost one in four people (22%) saying their main reason for taking an overseas holiday is to get some sunshine.

Longer breaks on the rise

The research also suggests consumers may have also been cutting back on the number of holidays overall to fund a longer main holiday. More consumers went abroad for seven or more nights in the past 12 months than in the same period the previous year. At the same time there was a drop off in the number of people going abroad for under six nights.

Cautious optimism

The findings of ABTA’s research point to consumers starting to feel more confident about their finances. The number of people prioritising the lowest prices when booking fell slightly while one in five (19%) consumers anticipate they will spend more on holidays next year compared to 16% who anticipate they will spend less. The younger market (16-24 year olds) appears to be particularly positive about next year with 29% saying they will spend more on holidays and just 13% saying they will spend less.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “It’s clear Brits are still keen to preserve their main annual holiday. The heatwave undoubtedly had an impact on the lates market as after many poor summers in the UK people chose to enjoy the weather at home, which may go some way to explain the slight decrease in the number of holidays taken per person. However, there is more optimism for next year with a greater number of consumers anticipating that they will spend more on holidays than those anticipating they will spend less, which is a shift in attitudes compared with last year.”

Consumers getting savvier about when to book

Continuing a trend from 2012, more people booked their holiday further in advance in the 12 months to August 2013 than in the same period the previous year. Just over a quarter (27%) of consumers booked their holiday further in advance this year, half (53%) booked at the same time and one in five (20%) booked closer to the departure date.

The top reasons cited for booking in advance were: better deals/cheaper prices (63%); to get better availability (49%); better choice (33%) and to get time off work (26%).

Domestic holidays

Staycations remained popular, with seven in ten consumers taking at least one domestic break and 16% taking four or more. However, compared with 2012 the number of domestic holidays per person was slightly down, suggesting that people chose to enjoy the heatwave in their homes and gardens.

Younger travellers take the most holidays

Those aged 35-44 take on average the least number of holidays of all age groups at 2.5 per person, with young people aged 16-24 taking the most holidays, enjoying an average of 3.7 holidays.

Regional split

There appears to be strong regional variations with how many holidays are taken. Those in Wales and Northern Ireland took the fewest holidays while Scots and those in the North West took the most per person. Londoners took the most foreign holidays per person, with 13% of Londoners taking 4 or more foreign holidays in the past twelve months. This compares to just 2% of those in Yorkshire and 3% of those in the East Midlands taking 4 or more foreign holidays.

*Consumer research was conducted by Arkenford Ltd (www.arkenford.co.uk) who specialise in tourism and leisure market research. The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated response from a nationally representative sample of 2008 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to August 2013. Fieldwork was conducted in August 2013.