Travel trends

OK, so it’s no secret that the economy is in meltdown, and is showing scant signs of recovery. But, we thought that the new year is a good time to take a few moments to reflect on the successes and challenges of last year in travel and tourism, and take a look at what 2012 will bring.

We hear ad infinitum about how the so-called ‘middle England’ is being squeezed, reduced salaries, increased taxes and high inflation all of which combine to alter our spending habits: we are choosing much more carefully where our precious pounds are spent. But what effect has this had on the travel industry?

Well despite all the doom and gloom of last year, the number of foreign trips in 2011 by Britons was actually the same as the previous year at 55.7 million visits (source: ONS). All told this is quite a remarkable achievement.  The cloud that accompanies this silver lining is that spending on travel dropped by 3% which to be honest, was to be expected.

Interestingly visits to Europe and to North America actually increased by 1% whilst visits to the rest of the world decreased by 6%, reflective of our instinct in uncertain times to holiday in places where we feel most comfortable and familiar.

The main winner out of all of this is Spain with increased British visitor numbers of 9.2% year-on-year (to September 2011.) Bucking the trend, Spain is also reporting an increase in tourist expenditure, which shows us that in the right environment we are willing to spend our hard-earned money on holiday.

Looking forward, the accountants and business advisors BDO LLP have released their Business Trends report which has a pretty bleak forecast for the UK economy, with businesses harbouring s view on the direction that their turnover is taking.

But as always, there are winners and losers in a downturn and it seems that there are some clear winners emerging from our economic problems. Travel Counsellors recorded a 17% year-on-year rise

in UK sales in January to date and Midcounties Co-operative Travel has reported record booking levels since Christmas with sales of summer 2012 holidays and cruises being particularly strong. Low Cost Travel Group and Your Golf Travel have both made the Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100 list with growth of 69.79% and 99.28% respectively in 2010-2011.

According to research by Tourism Intelligence International, 71.4% of respondents believe that the greatest growth in terms of traveller types will come from the over-50s market (aged 50-64), and a further two-fifths of respondents indicated that the over 65s will produce significant growth between now and the year 2015.

Crucially, people will travel; they still want new experiences or their prized time relaxing by the pool. But the market is changing rapidly, with the way that people buy travel, where they travel to and their buying decisions changing at an incredibly fast pace. There are business opportunities out there and the fastest to adapt to these changing behaviours are those that will survive and prosper.

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