The Big Picture - May 2011

In this issue: an increase in 'staycations', and research showing that annual holidays are still considered a priority.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics confirm that overseas visitors to the UK fell by one per cent in 2010, although spend over the year rose by one per cent compared with 2009. Although visits from European markets remained relatively buoyant, the UK as a whole saw a decline in the key North American market.

On the plus side for domestic tourism, overseas travel by UK residents continued to decline in 2010, with six per cent fewer trips taken abroad. The year also saw an increase in Scottish residents taking holidays in Scotland and the rest of the UK, while there was a decline in the number of English residents taking holidays away from home. 

One reason for this may be that in 2010 austerity measures were predominantly hitting the private sector, which employs a higher proportion of the English workforce than in Scotland. It may be, therefore, that as public sector cutbacks are felt in 2011 in Scotland, there will be a commensurate impact on holiday-taking by Scots.

New research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, suggests that rather than not taking breaks, consumers are cutting back on discretionary spend such as nights out so they can afford their annual holiday. 

Customers are “less likely to cut back on holidays than at the start of the recession and more likely to cut back on discretionary spend on socialising, such as drinking and dining out”, according to Robert Milburn, hospitality and leisure leader at PwC.

Recent research by PwC shows 30 per cent of people put holidays as a top spending priority this year. However, while they are more likely to go on more short breaks and take more holidays, they will remain value and cost-conscious. 

This has had a detrimental effect on pubs and restaurants, according to PwC, which says the hospitality and leisure industry is struggling. The research also shows that price and value for money are key reasons for choosing specific accommodation, with value for money more important than price.

With recessionary behaviour now the norm, the focus on ‘buying clever’ appears to have stuck with the consumer. 

The key to success for tourism operators in this competitive market is best available rates and no hidden extras. Findings from the survey showed that 63 per cent of respondents search for the best price, 32 per cent are always looking for a good deal and 30 per cent of respondents won’t mind asking for a discount.”