At Keycraft we’re invested in helping tourist attractions get the most out of their retail spaces by keeping an eye on current and upcoming trends in the industry, which brought up a question. Is UK domestic tourism being affected by uncertainty around Brexit? Are people staying on this side of the channel this summer because they didn’t have the confidence to make plans earlier in the year?
You might have read some of the articles and opinion pieces that have been going around on this, but we actually had some difficulty finding hard data that showed it was one way or the other, and most of that data had been made irrelevant by a constantly-shifting situation. We started to wonder if we'd made a presumption, Claudio Milano from the Osteala School of Tourism called the link between Brexit and tourism patterns "mainly political propaganda", as reported in a Guardian article from the beginning of this month.
So we just focused on what's happening on the ground. In May, Travel Weekly reported that about a third of UK holidaymakers plan to spend more holiday time in this country than in previous years. Booking.com found in June that over half the travellers they surveyed felt determined to make more sustainable travel choices, which is going to increasingly include flying less; we've even seen one airliner in the Netherlands encouraging people to 'Fly Responsibly'.
Barclay's released a study on domestic tourism at the end of May, having identified an uptick in 2017, and found "continuing growth on an undiminished scale". The whole thing is worth reading, but the headlines are that half of UK holidaymakers between 25 and 34 are planning to spend more holiday time in this country than in previous years, and that the main driver of this growth is positive recent experiences of domestic holidays that people want to repeat; the habit of domestic breaks is being positively reinforced.
Some of the biggest growth in revenue is happening in Midlands and the North-East of England, with tourist attractions in those regions reporting an average increase of almost 20% since 2017. The benefits are being felt around the community: of the businesses that have seen a lift in demand, 40% note a corresponding rise in local employment opportunities, 34% have seen new hospitality businesses launch in their area, and 28% see a rise in the number of independent shops.
The report includes a case study of what’s driving the National Trust's record levels of popularity, which Chief Financial Officer Peter Vermeulen pins down to "offering a broad range of experiences and activities to suit different ages, tastes and interests". They offer "a growing range of activities and events held at Trust properties, with regular entertainment programmes including open air cinema, theatre, music performances, book and food festivals."
What we found was that the surge in domestic tourism is actually positive growth coming from within, from tourist destinations responding to changing customer needs and offering new, memorable experiences and events which give people plenty of reasons to come back next time.