Judging from what we heard from our British colleagues during the recent IPW trade show in Washington DC, along with a stream of surveys, the outlook for long-haul travel from the UK, which is still the number one overseas source market for the United States, is in a state of animated chaos—not unlike a tea party scene in Lewis Carroll’s “Through a Looking Glass.” In the past two weeks, we’ve read or heard reports that:
- More than a third of Britons believe that last year’s vote (the June 23, 2016 “Brexit” vote) to leave the European Union (EU) has caused a hike in travel prices;
- Brits seem to be turning more to “staycations”—decided to holiday in the UK rather than venture outside of the country;
- Consumers have been hit with a two-fold increase in the price of travel, said TUI’s chairman, caused by a weaker pound and rising prices for holidays to favored destinations;
- Data from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) showed that for the last month for which it has preliminary numbers, September 2016, travel to the USA from the UK was down more than 10 percent year-on-year, while figures released earlier from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed travel to North America (the USA usually accounts for 90 percent or more of the number) was down for the same two months by 1.5 percent; and
- The inconclusive outcome of the June 8 snap general election called for by Prime Minister Theresa May which left no party with an absolute majority in Parliament is reflective of the inconclusive outlook for travel and tourism abroad.
More on each of the above.
- A survey of 2,000 people by the Institute of Customer Service that looked at potential losses for the travel and tourism sector found that a total of 39 percent of those surveyed said that prices had risen since the decision to leave the EU, though that vote came June 23, 2016, more than a month after the same survey taken in May 2016.
- The same survey said that the above has resulted in 39 percent of people opting for a staycation in 2017 vs. 36 percent last year. This seems to square, somewhat, with the results of a Travelodge survey which indicated that over half (55 percent) of Britons surveyed reported that they are holidaying at home this year because it is too expensive to go abroad and a staycation break offers better value for money
- Speaking at a conference in St. Petersburg, TUI chairman Klaus Mangold said British holidaymakers are being hit by a ‘two-fold’ price increase, caused by the fall in the value of the pound and rising prices in holiday destinations. One reason for the increase was a decline in the value of the pound and rising prices in holiday destinations. TUI, he said, will have to pass rising costs onto customers following the pound’s collapse. Mangold noted that his company has already noticed Brits taking shorter holidays as a result of rising inflation, with vacations cut down by two to three days on average. Buttressing Mangold’s claims were figures released June 13 by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) which indicated that overseas holidays and imported computer games were both affected by the drop in the value of sterling. As the rate of inflation was pushed up to 2.9 percent in May 2017 last month from 2.7 percent in April – the highest since June 2013, and above the Bank of England’s 2 percent target.
- On May 31, just hours after our last pre-IPW issue was published, NTTO issued a release indicating that preliminary figures for September 2016 showed UK visitors to the USA numbered 443,000*—down 10.1 percent from the 493,000* travelers who came to the U.S. from Britain. However, data released earlier by ONS indicated that 450,000 Brits traveled to North America (usually, visits to the U.S. comprise about 90 percent of the total) in September 2016—down just 1.5 percent from the 457,000 who visited in September 2015. (*U.S. figures are preliminary; all figures are rounded.)
- As an atmosphere of controlled chaos seemed to settle upon officialdom in the UK—by some accounts, the government of Theresa May was about to fall at any moment—confusion over cabinet appointments seemed to show that tourism was receiving the sleight of hand. The job of UK tourism minister was given to Salisbury MP John Glen just days after it was suggested publicly that former incumbent Tracey Crouch had been re-appointed. Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, was instead given the position of minister for sport and civil society.
To be continued …