British attitudes towards travel and tourism have changed almost beyond recognition in recent months. As successive lockdowns have bitten into the national psyche, a series of meta-trends that were emerging pre-Covid have come to the fore. At the same time, the pandemic has itself created new ones. The biggest change? A renewed love for The British Staycation.
When the first national lockdown eased in the UK between June and July 2020, millions of Britons in need of a summer getaway were faced with the challenge of finding holiday destinations much closer to home.
According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, there were 93.1 million overseas visits by UK residents in 2019, spending a mind boggling £62.3 billion, an increase of 7% compared with 2018. Had that trend continued, foreign travel might have outweighed domestic tourist spend entirely.
But this does not mean that £62.3 billion has gone straight into domestic tourism in 2021.
Domestic tourism forecasts for 2021
At time of writing, the ONS hadn’t released its 2020 data. But VisitBritain put together a provisional outline of the impact of Covid on domestic tourism in England from other data sources – and included forecasts for 2021.
“We have forecast a central scenario for England of £28.5 billion in domestic tourism spending in 2020, down 63% compared to 2019 when spending by domestic tourists in England was £75.9 billion,” the organisation reported.
“In total, this represents a loss of £47.5 billion (£11.7 billion from overnights and £35.8 billion from leisure day trips). The 2020 forecast is for a decline of 60% for overnights and 63% for leisure day trips, although with a different pattern of recovery. While some categories of day trips started to recover first, others are still very limited.”
The impact of regional and national lockdowns has clearly been felt. But within the gloomy reading, the shift to staycations over foreign travel is coming down the road as clear as day itself.
What happens in England is likely to be mirrored in the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and in every developed country where Covid-19 remains riskily high.