From Saturday the 4th of July onwards, the UK Government will allow hotels, bed and breakfasts, self-catering properties, campsites, and other tourist accommodation, to re-open. Given the international nature of the coronavirus situation, many have speculated that UK domestic tourism might experience a surge in demand this year as an alternative to flying abroad. Indeed, given the two-week quarantine period for international arrivals, domestic tourism will almost entirely be the source of revenue for such businesses.
However, a poll conducted this past week by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that just 16% of all UK respondents intend to book a holiday in the UK this year. This figure is only slightly larger than the 14% of UK respondents who intend to book a holiday abroad this year. Overall, despite significant government efforts to restart the tourism and travel industry in time for the traditional summer holiday period, 59% of the overall public does not plan to book a holiday at all this year.
However, in comparison to the number of respondents who intended to book a holiday prior to the coronavirus pandemic with the proportion who intend to book one now, the drop is much sharper when it comes to booking holidays abroad than booking holidays in the UK. Whereas 39% of respondents intended to book a holiday abroad prior to the pandemic, only 14% intend to do so now, which amounts to roughly a third of the original figure. On the other hand, the proportion who intend to book a holiday in the UK only fell from 24% to 16%. As such, roughly two-thirds of the original demand still exist, although some of this share could involve those who were initially travelling abroad choosing to instead vacation in the UK.
Although the UK Government is understood to be close to agreeing a list of ten countries that Britons can visit on holiday without having to go into quarantine for two weeks on their return (the so-called ‘air bridges’), just 14% of respondents are considering booking a holiday abroad this year. Among respondents who are not planning to book a holiday abroad this year, 26% gave their primary reason as being worried about contracting coronavirus on the airplane, while another 14% stated that their main concern would be contracting coronavirus in the destination country. Meanwhile, 19% of respondents selected their primary concern as the hassle of having to self-isolate for two weeks upon returning to the UK, as is currently the rule for all arrivals in the country (barring those from the Republic of Ireland).
It is therefore clear that although the imminent creation of ‘air bridges’ may allay the chief concern of around one in five of those not currently planning to travelling overseas, 40% of the public is more anxious about contracting coronavirus on the airplane or in the destination country. These figures highlight that the airline and tourism industry may take a significant long term hit throughout the duration of the coronavirus, and policies to ease travel restrictions may have a limited impact in supporting the sector throughout the pandemic. However, it is also the case that perceptions of how safe it is to travel abroad might change thanks to the small, determined minority that is still planning to book a holiday abroad.
Of those who intend to book a holiday this year, nearly a third have stated that they are planning on visiting Spain (31%), while significant numbers also intend to visit Portugal (21%) and Greece (17%). Many Britons have second homes (which would facilitate social distancing and greater isolation from the public) in these European countries––400,000 British citizens have a second residence in Spain, for example––and ultimately this factor may aid the recovery of European travel to some extent.
Overall, it is clear that the attitudes of a large proportion of the public will remain especially cautious this year, despite efforts to encourage holidays over the summer, and it is likely that the sector will continue to suffer financial losses. We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies will continue to monitor the public’s attitude to travel over the coming weeks.