Last week two of the UK’s biggest and best holiday brands, cottages.com and Hoseasons, reported that demand was up for UK Whitsun and peak summer holidays. Great news from our clients!
Not only is this simply a positive announcement for the businesses it bodes well for the whole industry. Self-catering holidays, especially in family groups, drive a large percentage of holiday spend up and down the country. The virtuous circle of domestic tourism, where every pound spent remains within the UK economy, has always been a strong creator of jobs and opportunity, but following a very tough 12 months for the sector it is essential that it bounces back quickly.
When someone stays in a cottage, lodge or on a boat they visit local pubs and attractions, they shop in supermarkets, ride in taxis and buy ice creams from newsagents. Often this simple contribution is forgotten, but in popular destinations around the UK – from the Norfolk Coast to the Cotswolds, and Dartmoor to the Isle of Arran – small businesses that support the sector are preparing to welcome visitors back once again.
So, what does 2021 look like for Domestic Tourism?
At the moment it’s very hard to see beyond what is clearly going to be a very tough few weeks for the UK. The stats that come out on a daily basis make very sobering reading, and nobody is thinking about a half term break (whether in a cottage or hopping on a plane). But this doesn’t mean disaster for the sector, and things can (and will) change very quickly.
In June last year the UK holiday sector saw an enormous surge in demand, as pent-up Brits looks to escape the monotony of lockdown version 1. This demand continued throughout the year and into the autumn, as demand exceeded capacity and available hotel rooms, lodges and cottages during key periods became like hens’ teeth.
So what does this mean for 2021?
Firstly we know that as a nation we love to travel, with holidays consistently ranking as one of the most important things we all spend money on. Secondly travelling abroad won’t immediately be as simple as before (even excluding Brexit). And finally, and only naturally, we will all be a little more wary of visiting places that may be slower to recover – especially those travelling without having been vaccinated.
All of which bodes very well for the sector this year, with indicators already showing an increase in demand compared to last year.
The challenge though will come in 2022, when after two years of domestic breaks people will want to spread their wings. The job of the tourism sector this year is therefore not to worry about demand, but to ensure we convert holidaymakers to lifelong lovers of holidaying at home. If we can do this, and put the horror of the Covid crisis behind us, then the sector will thrive in the years to come and play a key role in the country’s longer-term economic recovery.
So, fingers crossed for a big self-catering year ahead, and all the benefits that brings to businesses up and down the UK.