Significant rise in UK consumers booking holidays abroad
The number of UK consumers booking overseas holidays and flights rose significantly at the end of July after the government removed quarantine restrictions on vaccinated travellers returning from amber countries.
Consumer research by BVA BDRC suggests 1.2% of UK adults booked an overseas holiday last month. That may not sound much but was double the rate in May and June and slightly ahead of July last year. Only last-minute bookings in August 2020 were higher since the start of the pandemic, according to rolling BVA BDRC research.
The percentage booking flights was also the highest since last August at 1.3%.
By contrast, the proportion of consumers booking UK domestic holidays dipped below the rate in June, although at 3.4% it remained high by comparison with overseas bookings.
The relaxation of restrictions on vaccinated travellers to amber destinations only came from July 19, shortening the period in the month when consumers had many booking options.
Less than one in 100 UK adults (0.7%) reported flying in July, but this was the highest rate since October although below the rate of July 2020 (1.2%).
The latest BVA BDRC survey found attitudes to flying had improved from earlier in the pandemic but remained negative overall as they do towards public transport in general.
When respondents were asked how comfortable they felt about flying, 33% said they were comfortable now compared with 71% pre-Covid – a ‘comfort gap’ of -38. This was in line with results since March but an improvement from -53 in January. It remains a greater ‘comfort gap’ than on trains (-29) and buses (-26).
Asked how comfortable they would be taking an overseas holiday in the next month, 34% said they would be comfortable compared with 73% pre-Covid – a gap of 39 but an improvement from -55 in January and the best result since researchers first asked the question last October.
Three out of five respondents (60%) said they would be comfortable staying in a hotel in the next month, 20 percentage points down on pre-Covid but a 29-point improvement on January and closer to the level for self-catering (69%).
The survey found only 40% comfortable with the removal of social distancing and 33% with the removal of face mask requirements.
Business confidence also fell back with one-third of business respondents (32%) believing ‘the worst is past’ compared with 51% in May, returning to a level it was last at in mid-February.
Overall, BVA BDRC found the outlook at the end of July “more negative than at any time since January” with “some consumers unnerved by the potential absence of safety protocols”. However, it noted: “International holiday and flight bookings showed the most visible uplift in 12 months.”
BVA BDRC surveyed 1,763 UK adults on July 26-31 in its latest fortnightly survey.