Over the past several years, INBOUND has published accounts of surveys taken of the UK adult population which have suggested that Brits would give up just about every other type of indulgence when they were asked what they were prepared to give up in order to take their holidays.
And now, as the month of January is half-over and there looms over the British Isles the prospect of being jettisoned out of the European Union—a fate that was selected by a narrow majority of British voters in a June 2016 referendum, known as “Brexit” (as in the “British Exit” from the EU)—and the British traveler is being shaken by reports of a woe and discomfiture sure to spook the country when Brexit takes effect on March 29th, we learn that long-haul British travelers don’t care. They are still going to take their holiday this year.
As a matter of fact, they plan to spend more on holidays this year than they did in 2018. Reporting on the results of a survey by Netflights.com, Travel Weekly UK wrote, “Although the poll of 1,000 people revealed that Brexit is ‘on the mind’ of around half of those thinking about their 2019 holiday plans, on average they still plan to spend £630 ($810) each more on their trips over last year – an estimated windfall of nearly £2 billion ($2.57 billion) for the travel industry.”
We’ve already forecast a stronger year for traffic from the UK in our Market Outlook for 2019, which we released at the beginning of this month: after taking into account the major factors that go into predicting the number of visitors who are expected to arrive in the U.S. this year, we agree with the projection by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) that inbound traffic from the UK to the USA will increase by two percent, year-on-year, in 2019.
The British traveler seems to hold the view that Brexit, if it has any real impact on travel, will mostly affect travel to European/EU destinations.
Sunshine Saturday Kick Starts Sales for 2019
The most apparent and tangible sign for a positive year for the industry came about with the year’s first weekend of sales. The weekend’s Saturday, which has come to be known as “Sunshine Saturday”—because winter-weary Brits, who plan their holidays well in advance, begin shopping for their summer sunshine—was reported to have a strong surge of bookings.
Published accounts indicated that up to 5.2 million people were expected to book a holiday in January, with January 5, “Sunshine Saturday” anticipated to be one of the busiest days of the year.
In a survey of travel businesses, Travel Weekly UK found the following:
—Inspiring Travel Company’s director of agency sales, Lee Marshall, said: “Long-haul sales picked up considerably in the days following Christmas and we’ve seen encouraging agent enquiries on the back of our TV ad.”
—Gold Medal and Pure Luxury reported an increase in calls and bookings on New Year’s Eve, with New York, Las Vegas and Dubai the standout destinations.
—Simon Morgan, owner of Welsh agency chain Tailor Made Travel, said: “Enquiry levels are fantastic. I’m confident of sales growth and my staff are trained on averting any reluctance to book due to Brexit.”
—Prestige Holidays commercial director David Skillicorn said sales were “fabulously unexciting”, adding: “I’m not disappointed but I’ve not got high expectations about January. By pay day, we could see a ‘sod it’ factor.”
—Spear Travels managing director Peter Cookson agreed: “We are not expecting any records to be broken in January to March. If it’s ‘no deal’, people will still book, as life is too short.”
—The Travel Village Group managing director Phil Nuttall said Brexit was a “consideration for some people” but said consumers were still looking to get away. “We are hoping to have a good January. People are looking at booking their holidays.”
And while there were some travel sellers who reported beginning-of-the-year sales as flat, the comment that seemed to sum up the consensus among the trade was that of Vivid Travel managing director Kane Pirie, managing director of Vivid Travel, who said: “We’ve had a fantastic start to January. The market is holding up so well despite the Brexit saga.”