UK travellers overlook typical winter sun destinations in favour of ‘safer’ travel destinations.

The summer of 2015 has been a testing one for both British holidaymakers and the travel industry. We've watched the migrant situation unfold and spread across Europe, we’ve seen acts of terrorism in our favourite beach resorts, and watched Greece battling a crippling economic slump.

To uncover the true impact these events have had on the travel industry, Travelzoo conducted research with 2,000 consumers to identify how the ‘summer of discontent’ has changed British tourist’s willingness to travel abroad - and the destinations they are willing to travel to.

Louise Hodges takes a look at the research findings, discusses the implications for the travel industry and gives her take on when consumer trust in travel destinations will be restored.


Lack of understanding: Impacting Brits’ willingness to travel abroad

From the research it is clear events this summer have had a significant knock-on effect on British consumers’ willingness to travel abroad. Over half of those involved in the Censuswide study said recent acts of terrorism (54%) and the migrant situation (51%) had directly influenced how they feel about travelling overseas.

In spite of these events business is still booming for the travel industry with airlines achieving record load factors in August and ABTA reporting a 10% year on year growth for bookings. At the ABTA Convention this month in Greece we were told that the UK tourist spends on average £900 per person on travel each year –moving up to be the fourth highest globally.

While conversations with our travel partners also suggest the desire to travel shows no sign of abating, the research points to a change in the considerations travellers make when selecting holiday destinations. When asked how events this summer had impacted their travel behaviour:

• 75% of travellers admitted they would no longer consider visiting Islamic countries

• A similar number (77%) said they are now more likely to conduct research on the safety of a country before visiting

• 69% said they are more likely to check the Foreign Commonwealth Office website for advice on where is safe to travel to

The short term impact for the travel industry of this behavioural shift is clear: countries that would have appealed to British tourists for a winter getaway this time last year are being avoided by 50% of travellers, in favour of what they consider to be ‘safer’ destinations.


Changing behaviour: The impact on winter sun destinations

Previously popular destinations for winter sun such as Tunisia and Egypt are taking a back seat; with less than 1% of UK tourists saying they would consider visiting Tunisia even if the travel ban were lifted in the next few months.

Why? Because British tourists right now want to travel to places they feel are removed from the recent trouble in the Middle East region and parts of Europe, places they feel are safe for them and their family to travel to. When asked to rank what is most important to people when choosing a destination, safety ranks as the number two consideration (after cost), but above weather which is in third place – a surprising fact as in previous years’ weather was in the number two slot.

And, in order to feel this sense of security they’re willing to spend more money and travel further afield. Whilst the Canaries retain the top spot for winter sun, we are seeing the Caribbean and Australia take the second and third slot as the most popular destinations.


Travel Industry: Bouncing back

To date consumers have reacted to the ‘summer of discontent’ in the most human way possible; they have seen how events have unfolded and removed themselves from the destinations they believe put them and their family at risk. But what’s clear is that there remains confusion amongst British travellers about where is safe for travel, with over half (54%) admitting they feel confused and overwhelmed about where the safe travel destinations are.

While some countries are still being considered for holidays, others have a harder job ahead when trying to win back the trust of British tourists.

What all in the industry agree on however, is that the British tourist is resilient and values travel as an essential part of their lives.

History has also shown that even the most significant terrorist attacks and natural disasters can be recovered from in the fullness of time and with the appropriate reassurances from the government and those within the travel industry. Typically within 12 months a destination is able to recover and we hope this will be true for both Tunisia and its neighboring tourist destinations.

For the short term however, with events still fresh in the mind, British tourists will continue to actively avoid certain destinations. The industry has real work ahead to rebuild consumer trust and increase confidence in order for people to return to destinations affected by acts of terror and the ongoing migrant crisis.

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