UK tourism grows in popularity

The appeal of the UK among Brits is rising rapidly, according to BDRC Continental’s annual Holiday Survey (www.holidayreport2011.com).

Over a third of us feel that the UK has become more appealing as a holiday destination in recent years, compared with just one fifth back in 2008. And the survey reveals that the quality of service being delivered by our tourism businesses is at the heart of this sustained and growing appeal.

Making the most of the ‘staycation’

2010 proved that the ‘staycation’ phenomenon was far from a one-off and the survey indicates that this may well be sustained once again in 2011:
Almost half (48%) of us are now seriously considering staying in the UK for our main holiday this year compared with 39% last year and just 29% in 2009
79% of us who took our main holiday in the UK in 2010 are seriously thinking about returning in 2011 compared with only 66% of us back in 2009.

Quality of service at the heart of this enduring appeal

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So why are staycations continuing in popularity and why are we not all flocking back overseas again for our holidays?  The answer would seem to be the, perhaps unexpected, top quality experiences Brits have had whilst rediscovering the UK in the past couple of years.

When asked why they found the UK to have increased its appeal, 29% mentioned better hotels/accommodation, 24% better restaurants/catering and 19% mentioned that the UK was more customer focussed, delivering better service.  This on top of the 45% who cited our, perhaps forgotten, ‘good scenery’.
In the current economic climate, we also seem eager to support our tourism businesses, with 29% mentioning this as a reason for holidaying at home.
And an added bonus is that we don’t have to put up with the perceived increasing hassle of air travel. 38% gave this as a reason to holiday at home this year compared with 29% back in 2009.

Hotels and ‘high end’ beginning to benefit

To date, the staycation has been all about the strong performance of the self-catering and camping/caravanning sector.  But now the increased appeal of the UK has begun to influence the hotels sector too and the high-end holidaymakers that they attract.  51% of those who like to base their holiday around their hotel feel that the UK’s appeal has increased compared with 36% of those who don’t base holiday around their hotel.

Similarly, 41% of those in professional occupations feel that the UK has increased its appeal in recent years, compared with just 19% back in 2009.
This is backed up by VisitEngland’s national Occupancy Survey which reports hotel room occupancy for 2010 was 67%, up five percentage points from 62% in 2009.

Early booking

And UK holidaymakers don’t want to miss out on the best holidays.  There are a rising number of early bookers, with 23% of us already having booked a UK holiday by January 2011 compared with 17% back in 2010.

Early booking is a trend in the market overall, with only 33% of all holidaymakers claiming they will make their booking two months or less in advance of departure compared with 39% in 2010.

“This time last year we were asking whether the UK tourism industry could grab the opportunity that staycations offered,” says Steve Mills, Director, BDRC Continental. “The answer seems to have been a resounding ‘yes’.  The fact that the UK holiday revival has been founded on a conscious decision to stay based on positive experiences and improved service, rather than an inability to afford to travel abroad, gives cause for optimism that this can be sustained well into the future – but only if the sector continues to innovate and meet holidaymakers expectations.”