18 Mar

New research from ABTA shows demand for foreign holidays is back to pre-pandemic levels

Data revealed on the one-year anniversary of the UK lifting its COVID travel restrictions 

New figures from ABTA – The Travel Association show that 62% of people have been on a foreign holiday since the lifting of the UK’s COVID travel restrictions1.

Today marks 12 months since the UK Government lifted the UK’s remaining travel restrictions on 18 March 2022. The change on this date meant that all travellers, regardless of vaccination status, no longer needed to take any tests or complete any forms on their return to the UK – making it easier and cheaper for UK holidaymakers returning from an overseas break.

The new data also show that the demand for travel is now back in line with pre-pandemic levels and is a huge bounce back from the lows of 16% in 2021 when travel was at its most restricted because of measures to control the pandemic2.

Many of ABTA’s tour operator and travel agent members are reporting record-breaking sales since the start of the year. ABTA’s latest data, which show two-thirds (65%) of people are planning to go on holiday abroad in the next 12 months, indicate that this buoyant demand is set to edge further upward, with more than a third (37%) of people having already booked a break3

ABTA says there has been a ‘freedom factor’ driving the return of travel which perhaps explains why, despite the cost-of-living challenges, people are still keen to book a foreign trip. ABTA’s new survey suggests that, for the majority of people, holidays are the ‘non-essential’ item they want to prioritise this year, with 54% saying they’ll cut back on other non-essential costs so they can still afford to go on holiday4.

A strong travel and tourism sector is highly beneficial to the wider UK economy. ABTA research finds that international travel has the potential to lead the UK’s economic recovery, with the outbound sector expected to grow 15% by 2027, outperforming the wider UK economy5

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said:  

“What a difference a year makes. One of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic is now back, and in a big way, with demand for travel reaching pre-pandemic levels. 

“Both our research and reports of strong booking levels from our members show that holidays remain a spending priority for the year ahead, despite the current squeeze on finances. On the whole, people are preferring to adapt their travel plans rather than scrap them entirely, primarily by going all-inclusive, booking early, or holidaying outside of busy periods. 

“A clear focus for the sector will be to continue the recovery by building a more sustainable industry, ensuring people and communities gain the economic and social positives it brings while addressing environmental challenges. Government support in this area will be critical in helping with hard to tackle issues such as decarbonising aviation.”

Notes to editors
(1, 3, & 4) ABTA consumer sentiment research, conducted in February 2023 by Savanta (www.savanta.com) with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 consumers.

(5) Source is ABTA’s joint report with UKInbound, International Travel: Powering the UK economy, which outlines the value of international travel to the UK economy in terms of supporting jobs, economic contributions and taxes paid to HM Treasury.

About ABTA
ABTA is a trade association for UK travel agents, tour operators and the wider travel industry. We’re the largest travel trade body, with over 3,900 travel brands in membership who have a combined pre-pandemic annual UK turnover of £40 billion. We work closely with our members to help raise and maintain standards and build a more sustainable travel industry, and provide travellers with advice, guidance and support.

Our members sign up to a code of conduct and commit to agreed service standards and fair trading. When you need clear travel information, and accurate and impartial advice relating to your trip, we’re here for you. We’ll help you understand your level of financial protection, and what to do next, in the unlikely event that an ABTA member goes out of business. So, whatever happens, when you book with an ABTA member, reliable advice comes as standard. This means that booking with our members brings peace of mind. Together with our members, we help you travel with confidence. www.abta.com