Holiday Trends 2020 - Interim Coronavirus Impact Update

26/03/2020 By Max Clapham


Coronavirus is giving holiday makers and the tourism industry a real hammering. However, there is a way for the domestic tourism industry to get the British back on their feet again – and win hearts and minds to boot.

In a Coronavirus update to our anticipated 2020 Holiday Trends report we reveal that only 17% of Britons now expect holiday travel to return to 'normal' by this July (i.e. as before the pandemic).  The largest proportion, 31%, don’t anticipate normalisation until 2021 or beyond. That is a very long time to be deprived of one of society’s vital wellness outlets.

Travel anticipation

Findings further reveal that nearly two thirds of the British public (63%) have already cancelled or are expecting to cancel a 2020 planned holiday, with longer overseas holidays (34%) most likely to be cut.

Even with the unprecedented fiscal packages on offer, operators with substantial cash reserves will have to cut back massively to weather the storm.  Sadly though, some operators may not survive until 2021.

Cancelled Holidays

Back in January when we first conducted 2020 fieldwork for Holiday Trends (our predictive annual report on the intentions, motivations and attitudes of the British holidaymaker) there was economic optimism and a potential rise in long haul travel.

As we publish the updated report in full next week, coronavirus has brought the holiday industry to a standstill.  Hotels are empty or transitioning to makeshift hospitals, planes are grounded, cruise liners docked.

In our update we were keen to explore to what extent a ‘bounce-back’ could be expected when travel returns to normal. Our findings support some of those earlier predictions with an indication that cancelled longer overseas holidays and UK short breaks are more likely to be re-booked in full than other trip types. However, many won’t be, and the squeeze on personal finances will become even more acute in the next couple of months.  Those hoping to revive current holiday plans in full are therefore likely to represent a shrinking audience.

Intention to rebook holidays

Whilst we hope measures being taken by the UK government to soften the blow bear fruit in the coming months, there are extra initiatives the domestic tourism market could take to remain relevant and connected to the British public during this time of social distancing.

With a focus on visitor attractions but with application across the rest of the industry, we asked at the weekend what initiatives the public would find most appealing during this period of social distancing.

There is a clear direction. Where possible the British public are seeking the provision and promotion of controlled walking routes. Some attractions have the ability to provide this and 2 in 5 found these initiatives appealing. But so do other, larger providers of open space. Max Clapham, BVA BDRC director, commented, “With careful planning and imagination, online booking capabilities and very strict management, controlled walking routes can be achieved.”

There are other, predominantly online initiatives that can provide succour to the mental and physical wellbeing of the British public and alleviate potential social unrest. But as last weekend proved, we need that outdoor space. It’s been severely diminished and we need to get it back.

Social Distancing at attractions

Look out next week for the full report of Holiday Trends 2020 where we compare exactly how destination intentions have changed in the last 3 months and dive deeper into the data and insights beyond the headlines.