Have Staycations Become the New Normal?

COVID-19 has shocked the tourism world. And as Europe slowly re-opens its borders, a significant number of UK holidaymakers will not be risking heading abroad, with fears such as local lock-downs and invalid travel insurance becoming a reality. However – like in other sectors of the UK economy, such as online retailing – coronavirus appears to have accelerated a trend that was already becoming apparent.

Coronavirus has led to a 150% increase in staycation bookings this summer, as families and friends alike look to spend their precious holiday time in familiar territory.

But research from Barclays Corporate provides an insight as to the changing behaviours of Britain's holidaymakers before the global pandemic and it suggests that this shift in behaviour actually began years ago.

There has been a surge in domestic tourism in recent years and a major shift away from the traditional urge to go abroad, with 31% more holidaymakers pre-COVID planning to spend their holidays in the UK. Barclays’ research shows the trend is being driven by millennials, with 52% stating they want to spend more of their holiday time in Britain. And this has been reflected in a 20% increase in revenues at holiday and leisure businesses across the UK, pre-COVID, since 2017.  VisitBritain has called this a ‘turning point in what we had previously identified as a decline’.

But what exactly is driving millennials to dump their passports and head to the seaside?

The main reasons cited are the “positive experiences on domestic travels” they are wanting to repeat, and the convenience of staying within the UK. As the habit of travelling to beauty spots in our own country is consolidated, it is great news for our tourism industry because habits are often formed across generations, meaning the children of millennials will likely follow in the footsteps of their parents.

The increased positive experiences is likely due to the huge investment in our own leisure, hospitality and tourism industries; resulting in over 55% of tourism businesses reporting higher demand. By offering services they have come to expect, such as Wi-Fi and streaming services, as standard in holiday accommodation, UK holiday operators have tapped into the millennial demographic. Hungry for new experiences, they are also keenest to know about local offers and deals from providers in the area, with investment in digital services key to bringing visibility of those to smartphones.

This is wonderful news for the industry, and for employment prospects and the general health and vibrance of communities, with perpetual favourites such as the Lake District, Cornwall, and Devon retaining their pull as the “go-to” destinations. But the North East and Midlands are reported to be the ‘up and coming’ places to staycation at, showing a 67% increase in demand.

In terms of activities and the ‘type’ of staycation, city breaks top the demand list with 40% favouring it, whilst countryside camping equates for a whopping 39% of people’s holidays, with another 16% choosing to spend their time in a caravan or campervan park.  And this is despite restrictions on socially distanced showers and toilet facilities.

And as the population grows, and tastes change, this has resulted in the number of Brits holidaying in the UK almost doubling in 2017 to 59 million, from just over 30 million in 2009.

As lock-down restrictions are rapidly eased, and Boris Johnson has encouraged us to ‘take a holiday in Britain this year’, this could be an exciting time for UK tourism as the foundations laid over the past ten years bear fruit.