British holidaymakers staying home as recession bites

British holidaymakers staying home as recession bites

The number of British holidaymakers heading overseas has fallen sharply, as travellers remain wary of nonessential spending during the ongoing recession.

According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the estimated seasonally adjusted number of visits abroad fell by six per cent in the three months to December 2009; with British holidaymakers taking just 13.9 million trips overseas.

In the longer term the trend is more pronounced.

When compared to the same three month period of 2008, the number of overseas trips taken by British holidaymakers is down by some 14 per cent.

Over the past year North American has seen the biggest drops – down 21 per cent to 3.6 million trips in 2009. The trend is likely to have been prompted by sterling’s weakness against the American dollar.

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Visits to Europe have also fallen by 15 per cent over the same period, while visits to the rest of the world are down 11 per cent.

Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, commented: “It seems the staycation trend has life in it as value-seeking Britons continue to holiday at home in strong numbers, assisting in the recovery of associated hospitality and leisure services.

“Where people are travelling abroad, bookings are being made later than ever, and while the demand for an annual foreign holiday is still constant, it is the short break market that has and will suffer in the short term at least.

“In response to the UK consumer’s increasingly discerning quest for value, holiday companies are able to manage capacity much more dynamically than ever before,” he added.

However, there are “early signs of a recovery”, according to business travel specialist Hogg Robinson.

The company – which represents KPMG, HSBC and Volkswagen among others – said it had seen “more normal” trading over the four months since October last year. However, client revenue for period was down by approximately six per cent, which equates to a nine per cent decline excluding favourable currency movements.

“Clients continue to travel and we are seeing early signs of stabilisation, albeit market conditions remain challenging with limited forward visibility,” chief executive David Radcliffe explained.

In further positive news, the seasonally adjusted estimated number of visitors to the UK has remained relatively stable, according to the ONS.

In the three months to December 2009 some 7.3 million visits were made to the UK, a fall of just one per cent when compared with the previous three months.

These visitors – perhaps prompted by the weak pound – spent £4 billion. However, UK residents overseas spent £7.6 billion – leaving the UK with a deficit of £3.6 billion.