ABTA Travel Trends roundup

My reading of the annual ABTA Travel Trends Report 2016 goes beyond personal interest. Many of our clients are both directly and indirectly involved in the the leisure and travel sectors, it offers a broad understanding of these industries and how to capitalise upon them.

This then is a summary of key takeaways from the report. I hope it is useful for our clients who have a vested interest in its proposals, and interesting to those who keep an ear to the ground of the travel sector.

The year that was

Where better to start than with a bit of context?

The 2015 report can be found here. There’s no hiding from the fact that the past year has been one of turmoil in a geopolitical sense, what with the double attacks on Paris bookending the year, the Russian plane downed over Egypt and the growing spectre of Daesh in both the Middle East and streets of Europe. But, we can proudly say that this hasn’t stopped the British traveller, channelling the Blitz spirit of generations before.

In fact, the holiday market was up on 2014, with 77% of Brits taking a holiday of some form. Admittedly this was a 3% decrease on 2014, but those that did travel spent 9% more whilst enjoying their time off than in the previous year.

The most popular overseas destinations were:

  • Spain
  • France
  • The USA
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • The Netherlands
  • Turkey
  • Ireland
  • Belgium

The year that is

And onto 2016, with a “cautiously positive” tone. Already-booked overseas holidays are up 9% year on year. Not to mention the 23% of consumers who intend to spend more on holidays this year than last. A sign perhaps of a resurgent economy and the consumer confidence that coincides with it.

But it also appears that we as Brits are becoming bolder. With roughly one in five saying they will travel to a country they have never visited before, while just under a quarter will visit a new resort or city in a country they have been to previously.

But, the aforementioned turmoil does appear to be having an effect on traveller habits. While it may not manifest itself too dramatically in terms of amount of people travelling, it is expected to affect the destinations chosen. People are turning to tried and tested locations. Spain looks set to have another bumper year. Eurozone countries also look to be winners with a strong Pound allowing for favourable exchange rates for the Euro.

Young people appear to be the most positive about the year to come with precisely a third of 16-24 year olds planning to spend more, while 28% of 25-34 year olds intend to do the same.

Domestic breaks

Domestic holidays look to fair well in the coming year. Visit England states that there were 58.1 million trips recorded in 2015 – that’s a 13% increase on 2014. This trend looks set to continue, with 64% of people intending to take at least one UK break.

Families are the bulk of that group. They intend to take 2.2 UK Holidays. Undoubtedly music to the ears of our clients focussed on the UK short break market. To add deeper harmony to that already-sweet lullaby, domestic travellers spent more while vacationing. 31% spent between £101 to £200 on a short break (up 19% on 2014), while 25% of those taking a longer break spent £201-£300.

And it certainly doesn’t end there. 2016 looks to be a culturally significant year. The Royal Shakespeare Company will commemorate 400 years since the bard’s death. While of particular interest to family-focussed clients is the milestone of Roald Dahl’s centenary year and Beatrix Potter’s 150th year. Charlotte Bronte would be celebrating her 250th birthday as well. These events are likely to draw visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon, Yorkshire, the Lake District and Buckinghamshire.

Key trends

The western Mediterranean looks set to fair particularly well out of the consumer concern with safety. Portugal and particularly Spain look set for a bumper year of tourism.

Those in social grade A took an average of 8 holidays last year, up from 7.4 in 2011. This doesn’t look to be slowing, with 40% of this group intending to spend more on holidays in 2016 than in 2015.

Destinations that have suffered from a bad reputation in the past, such as Magaluf and Ibiza are looking to reposition, as they see the potential in a more gentrified, family audience. Hotels and packages are popping up regularly, attracting this customer base to these places. David Cameron has even been known to visit Ibiza (excuse the red top link), the island synonymous with all-night parties.

All in all, holidaymakers are looking to get more active while away. This extends from over 55s, 6% of which took a sporting holiday in 2015, to the 16-25 year olds at the other end of the spectrum. 16% of the latter group intends to take a sporting or activity holiday in 2016.

Escaping to nature was very much in across all ages in 2015 and that trend looks to continue. 14% of 55-64 year olds headed to the lakes or mountains in 2015, while 14% of 25-34 year olds went the same way in 2015.

It would be impossible to discuss 2016 travel trends without a mention of the two big sporting events set to take place. There is the European Football Championship, happening across France and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, this is a trend that is far more male dominated, with 9% of men planning to travel to a sporting event this year, compared to just 3% of women who intend to do the same.

This may be of particular interest to our car rental client who would do well to focus efforts around key Euro 2016 locations, such as Nice, Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Lille to name but a few. Driving from one to the other will be particularly popular especially considering that many are grouped relatively closely, in both the north and the south of the country.

12 destinations to watch

Each year the report offers 12 places it expects to be big hitters in the coming year. The below video details the selected locations for 2016.

And with that the report comes to an end. The year ahead looks to be positive for many of our clients related to the travel and leisure sector. We look forward to approaching opportunities and obstacles together into 2016 and beyond.