“They are committed to their holidays.” There must be have been a reason beyond or beneath the survey results that, for the past year, have resulted in the optimistic outlook for travel to the United States from the UK by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO). Year-on-Year, the number of visitors from the UK, which is the largest overseas source market for the U.S. inbound tourism industry, is expected to increase by 4 percent, once 2019 is history. In fact, overall, UK vacations at home and abroad reached their highest level in almost a decade. And NTTO is forecasting a 2 percent increase in visitation from British travelers in 2020. Why?
The answer seems to be simple: Because they are committed to their holidays.
The researchers and writers of the ABTA’s Travel Trends Report 2020, which was recently released, explained it this way: “2019 proved to be a resilient year for holiday-taking. ABTA’s own research, along with other industry data, shows that despite the gloomy political and economic indicators, the vast majority of people still went on holiday–nearly nine in ten of us, in fact.” The report stated, “in spite of these factors, people have remained committed to their holidays. ABTA research shows that 88 percent of people took a holiday in the 12 months to the end of July 2019, either at home or abroad, up slightly from 86 percent last year and the highest number since 2011.”
ABTA, which is by far the number one trade organization for travel agents in the UK, makes it clear in its assessment of the situation that “the enduring appeal of the package holiday is part of the reason for this, particularly as it evolves and adapts to appeal to new generations of holidaymakers.” Also encouraging, the report notes, is that “travel professionals are adapting to the changing needs of customers, a trend we think will continue.”
Here are some of the other featured points noted in the ABTA Trends report:
• 2019 saw the biggest company failure in UK travel industry history, with the collapse of Thomas Cook, while the Brexit crisis that has dominated UK politics for several years continued.
• Holidays abroad, particularly longer holidays of seven nights or more, proved especially popular. The number of foreign holidays of seven plus nights increased to an average of 1.1 per person in 2019, up from 1.0 in 2018 and 0.7 in 2016. More than six in ten Brits (64 percent) took a foreign holiday in the 12 months to July 2019, up from 60% the previous year, and the highest figure since 2011.
• According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, the package holiday market has enjoyed five consecutive years of growth since 2014. (ONS data show 2018 overseas package holiday visits of 18,172,000, up from 17,539,000 in 2017; 17,456,000 (2016); 16,676,000 (2015); and 15,868,000 in 2014).
• Looking at consumer sentiment, the mood appears to be fairly positive when it comes to holidays. ABTA’s research shows that travel is still a spending priority for the year ahead as over a quarter of people (27 percent) plan to spend more on their holiday, up from 25 percent who said the same last year.
• The number of people who plan to spend less (14 percent) is consistent with the past two years.
• Seven in ten people (70 percent) are planning a trip abroad. Europe remains the number one destination people plan to visit, with 57 percent saying they plan to take a trip there. The UK is the second most popular option at 56 percent.
• Just over half of people (51 percent) say they are concerned about the impact Brexit will have on the cost of their holiday. However, this has fallen since last year when 54 percent said that they were concerned.
• Value for money looks set to be a strong driver of holiday choices in 2020, as was the case last year. 21 percent of people say they plan to take an all-inclusive in the year ahead.
• Trends across the industry include: The rise of “slow travel,” in which the experience of getting to destination has become a more important part of travel, hence the popularity of two-and-three week train trips and other kinds of trekking; increased and improved digital customer service; new types of flexible and immersive travel products; the move toward “electronic aviation” as airlines move ahead with plans to fly low-noise, electric passengers jets; and an increased focus on the environmental aspects of tourism.