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Inbound, Outbound and Domestic Travel… Where Are We?

As part of the Virtual Tourism Society’s Prospects Event this month, we recently heard from Ian Taylor, editor at the Travel Weekly Group and one of the very few travel journalists to report sector-wide on leisure and corporate travel, inbound and outbound.

We were very interested to listen to the results of various consumer surveys commissioned by Travel Weekly, Eurocontrol and Visit Britain, as well as Ian’s thoughts about the state of inbound, outbound and domestic travel; the prospects of which will overwhelmingly be shaped by 3 major challenges: Covid, the increasing costs of living as well as climate change and sustainability.

  • Unsurprisingly, inbound tourism has been a disaster over the past couple of years, with 2021 figures down by 97% vs 2019.

  • Based on consumer research carried out by Travel Weekly (TW) 22% of the adults in the UK took an overseas holiday in 2021 whilst 28.6 million of them decided to settle for a staycation.

  • Leisure travel will lead the recovery with 1/3 of UK adults planning to spend more money on travel.

  • Outbound bookings have boomed since last January's announcement about the removal of testing. As a result, tour operators are struggling to cope with the volume of queries, especially since 75% of travel companies are reporting difficulties in recruiting staff, a trend that is expected to carry on until the end of the year.

  • 2 in 5 UK adults plan an overseas holiday this year with a higher rate among UK families.

  • According to a forecast conducted by Eurocontrol, 90% of European air traffic will return this year, however, it will take until 2024 to get back to 2019 levels.

  • 56% of the TW survey respondents responded that they might not take a holiday overseas whilst covid remains a threat globally whilst 36% agreed strongly that they will not travel abroad at all. This suggests that the level of travel will not return to 2019 levels until much of the world is vaccinated and there is more certainty about future variants of the virus.

  • For those considering an overseas holiday, the main concerns are ever-changing restrictions, the risk of quarantine and the prevalence of covid in the destination. The need for testing and its attached costs came at the bottom of the list.

  • In terms of accommodation, 50% of travellers choose to book 4 or 5-star hotels and resorts (the proportion is higher amongst families)

  • 50% of travellers also plan to go all-inclusive (vs 62% of families), a trend that has grown year on year since 2012. While city breaks and beach holidays remain the firm favourites with UK travellers.

  • For domestic travel, 55% of UK adults expect to book a UK holiday this year. According to Visit Britain’s sentiment tracker, UK adults planning to take a domestic holiday during the first quarter of this year are also expected to travel overseas later in the year.

  • The survey also shows that in order to take a UK overnight trip, travellers are expecting free cancellation policies and transferable bookings as a priority. Interestingly, people do not seem to be worried about contactless technologies despite a lot of emphasis from the industry on the topic.

  • The big question mark for both inbound and outbound travel is about corporate travel. As of January this year, 68% of corporate travellers surveyed, said they had no plans to reschedule their international travel arrangements.

  • Furthermore, going forward 63% of corporate travellers expect to travel much less than before the pandemic. A return to the 2019 levels will therefore require a lot of changes and quite some time.

  • The increasing cost of living has recently entered everyone’s consciousness and as a result, consumer confidence is starting to fall and is expected to fall further over the coming months as more cost increases are expected.

  • Issues around climate change and sustainability seem to be put on one side when travellers are booking their holidays and this is despite the fact that about 50% of consumers voice some concerns about these issues (33% do not have any concerns at all).

  • The number 1 concern is the impact of flying. According to the Travel Weekly survey, 2 in 5 adults in the UK are concerned enough about climate change to modify their travel behaviour by travelling less, travelling to closer destinations or not travelling abroad. 28% state they are concerned but will not consider travelling less.

As concerns about climate change will only keep growing, this could be a sign of significant changes in travel behaviour. Time will tell... Meanwhile, let us know your thoughts by commenting below.

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