Half of Britons Remain Hostile to Summer Holidays Abroad, As Indian Variant Dampens Optimism

May 26, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Coronavirus
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As summer approaches and the UK’s vaccination rates continue increasing, a holiday abroad increasingly looks like a real possibility for many Britons—yet the new Indian variant of coronavirus appears to be putting a question mark on the travel plans of some. In the latest poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we find that only 19% of Britons now say they intend to travel abroad for holiday this summer, and a further 34% intend to travel domestically within the UK this summer. These figures include the 7% who say they intend to travel both abroad and domestically. A majority of Britons (54%) now say that they do not intend to travel anywhere this summer, which represents a slight increase since 24 April, when 47% said they had no intention of travelling anywhere this summer.  

Age continues to be a key determinant of travel intentions, with 42% of those aged 18 to 24 saying they intend to travel abroad this summer, compared to only 11% of those aged 65 or older. These figures may seem counterintuitive considering that older respondents are far more likely to have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccination in time for summer, not only protecting them for the virus but also making it easier for them to travel around Europe without strict testing or quarantine requirements. On the other hand, very few respondents aged 18 to 24 will have received their two doses of the vaccination by the time summer starts, yet the results of our poll suggest that they are either happy to test and quarantine, or that they have high hopes that requirements will be eased later this summer, or that they will get vaccinated sooner than expected. 

With 54% of British respondents saying they do not intend to go on holiday anywhere this summer, 52% of Britons also think that UK residents should not be allowed to go on holiday abroad this year. On the other hand, 31% think they should be allowed, and 17% say they don’t know. Thus, the picture is one where roughly half of the British public thinks holidays abroad are too dangerous and other UK residents should not be allowed to go on them, whereas approximately one third thinks that they should be allowed to go on such holidays—and indeed some plan to do so

Similarly, 55% of Britons think that tourists from abroad should not be allowed to visit the UK this year, even if they follow the current quarantine rules. On the other hand, 31% do think that international tourists should be welcomed by the UK this year. 

Thinking about destination countries for outbound UK tourists, it appears from our research that the Government’s categorisation of countries through the traffic light system has had an impact on whether Britons consider it safe to travel there on holiday. For example, 38% of British respondents say they would be willing to go on holiday to a country on the green list, yet only 15% would go to a country on the amber list, and just 8% would travel to a country on the red list

Interestingly, the percentage of people who answer that they don’t know if they would be willing to travel to those locations was relatively limited, ranging from 8% to 14%, indicating that the public generally has strong sentiments on this matter. Also worth noting is that uncertainty edges a little higher for countries on the green list (where people are being told by the Government to exercise personal judgment) than for countries on the red list (where the Government’s messaging is clear).

As for the Government’s traffic light system itself, 44% find it straightforward and easy to understand, whereas 42% consider it confusing and difficult to understand. With 56% of 2019 Conservative voters—but only 36% of Labour voters—saying they find it straightforward, it is possible (and indeed likely) that responses to this question are biased by how respondents feel about the Conservative Government as a whole, rather than about the traffic light system in particular. 

Despite the public’s deep division over whether UK residents should travel abroad this year and whether the UK should welcome tourists, there is one policy that does command the support of a clear majority of the British public: vaccine passports for international travel. Indeed, our latest polling finds that 86% of Britons would be willing to carry a vaccine passport for international travel, and only 14% would refuse. 

Overall, our research finds that roughly half of the British public is steadfast in its opposition to holidays abroad this summer, whether it is travelling abroad themselves, letting others travel abroad, or welcoming tourists to the UK. Yet, roughly a fifth of Britons—particularly younger age groups—are keen to travel abroad and will likely take advantage of the easing of border restrictions that many European countries have introduced in order to facilitate summer tourism from Britain. As the current wave of uncertainty around the Indian variant of coronavirus and its effects continues to unfold, the travel plans of many face yet another round of doubts, despite the vaccine having been touted as a way to put an end to the ‘boom and bust’ cycle of lockdowns and reopenings.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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