Resilient but cautious. Brexit not yet influencing Holiday Plans

08/03/2017 By Jon Young

If time was measured by major world events, then the 12 months since we published Holiday Trends 2016 would be a relative eternity.  So as we waited for Britons’ holiday predictions for 2017, we half expected everyone to declare they would be staying at home.  At the very least we anticipated some shift in holiday behaviour.

But it appears Britons are a bit more resilient than that.  Days after I booked my sixth consecutive summer break to the Canary Islands, Holiday Trends 2017 (research conducted in January 2017) revealed very little movement in predicted holiday behaviour.  9 in 10 Britons anticipate taking any overnight trip in 2017 compared to the same in 2016.  7 in 10 predict a holiday overseas, again, the same proportion as in 2016.  Outside the UK, France and mainland Spain remain the most popular short-break destinations.  And most Britons feel confident about visiting the USA, it remaining the second most popular destination for a longer holiday (although our research took place before President Trump’s controversial travel ban was announced).  There’s no firm evidence that people are waiting to see what happens with Article 50 either – the time taken between planning and booking a holiday are almost identical to last year.

Intention to take holidays of 4 plus nights

Of course, that’s not the whole story. There is evidence in our research that the tide of resilience may turn.  For one, we measure predictions, not bookings and only 3 in 10 we surveyed had already booked their holiday.  It may be that the impact of exchange rates will produce some nasty surprises at check-out, nudging Britons to take a holiday in the UK instead.  Indeed, despite their resilience, domestic holidays are set to increase in 2017 – the first time in four years.   Cost clearly plays a role in holiday decision making. It is the factor Britons are most likely to consider at the start of the planning process and ‘exchange rates’ is the second most popular reason the UK is ‘more appealing’ than it used to be.  Furthermore, of the changes expected post-Brexit, exchange rates and more expensive air travel were top of the list.

Percieved impact of brexit on EU holidays

The uncertain world situation should not be ignored either.  As in 2016, safety is a strong consideration for around 2 in 5 in their holiday planning, and the fourth most mentioned factor at the start of the planning process.  It is also the most important reason that the UK is regarded as more appealing for a holiday than it used to be.   Safety clearly impacts decision making too.  Of 11 world cities we measured, Paris and Istanbul are regarded as the least safe and tellingly, predicted trips to France and Turkey have both declined in the last few years.   It’s also worth noting that, despite stable visits to the USA, these holidays were likely dreamed up way before President Trump took office, let alone before his headline-stealing travel ban.

So what are our predictions for the year ahead?  Well we should be careful of polarising the debate.  The end result doesn’t have to be either Tenerife or Torquay – it is far more likely to be somewhere in between (figuratively not literally).  The single biggest ‘decision-clincher’ for Britons when planning a holiday is ‘I’ve been before’.  We are creatures of habit and feel far more comfortable with tried and tested destinations – particularly in an uncertain world.  We also tend to like nice weather (climate is the third most important decision-clincher) and for all of Britain’s beauty, guaranteed sun isn’t its strong point.   So barring a seismic world event, Britons are more likely to cut back on how much they spend on an overseas trip (or make sacrifices elsewhere), than abandon it altogether.   Such a conclusion fits quite well with our results in presenting a resilient but wary British holiday maker - ‘keep cautious and holiday on’ perhaps.

You can get the latest findings on the impact of Brexit on holiday plans in Holiday Trends 2018.

Naturally, I welcome any thoughts or queries.  Otherwise, see you in the Canaries!