Has the UK ‘staycation’ come to stay?

Behind the moans, most Brits are secretly enjoying their semi-forced domestic holidays. Should international destinations be worried?  

That UK domestic tourism is booming won’t surprise you. But as most Brits would rather be on the Costa del Sol than in the Cotswolds, you might be surprised to hear that many are having a better time than expected.

But should international sun & beach destinations be worried that Brits might not come back?

To analyse this, we have conducted a study using our Mabrian Travel Intelligence Platform to analyse the current UK domestic travel situation. We have done this by cross-analysing multiple data sources – such as social media, accommodation reviews, flight capacity, and flight searches – as we normally do for the smart destinations that we work with around the world.

Despite an appearance of moaning about it, overall the impression Brits are having of their domestic tourism experiences is very positive: Brits now have a much better impression of the range of tourist experiences available, up by five points in our Mabrian Tourist Product Index from a score of 73 to 78 (out of 100) between last summer and this. 

When it comes to three- and five-star hotels, British domestic travellers are also enjoying their stays more this year too – with our Hotel Satisfaction Index showing an increase from 43 to 44 points and 68 to 71 points respectively when it comes to satisfaction scores.  

That said, in the four-star category satisfaction scores are down from 57 to 53 points year-on-year – and in all three categories the average scores are still below those of 2019.

It must be pointed out too that overall these scores are still some way off those that Brits give to Spanish hotels when visiting, with the current average being a score of 61 for the last two months.

Security always plays a big factor in holiday destination decisions and none more so than currently. And according to our Perceived Security Index, UK domestic travellers have increased their positive perception of the UK from 85 points to 95 year-on-year. 

Social media commentary about the UK as a tourist destination reflects all of this too: last summer only 46% of the comments were from actual Brits. This year that figure has surged to 65%. 

In fact, rather strangely, the biggest surprise is that British domestic travellers seem disappointed with the weather.  Hard to believe people are shocked? The data shows otherwise: our Perceived Climate Index reveals that the perception UK based domestic travellers have of the weather has fallen from a score of 91 last year between May 20 and July 20, to an average of just 62 in the same period during 2021. 

No two summers are alike, but this might reflect that people were secretly hoping for the Mediterranean sun? UK destinations mustn’t hide away from this factor when marketing and need to find ways to better manage visitor expectations.

How do actually measure all of this? We use artificial intelligence (AI) and a special technique called natural language processing (NLP) to listen in on millions of spontaneous conversations (i.e. a ‘big data’ approach) about destinations and tourist experiences on social media and tourist portals  and clean up that information into different indices with a scoring of zero to 100. Together they measure the performance (or satisfaction level) in all the main aspects of a destination. And we do all of this at a source-market-by-source-market level: all around the world.

So with this clear trend not only for a staycation, but one that people enjoy more than they’d expected, this might explain why the number of seats available on UK domestic flights for August and September are up by 90% compared to last year?

At the same time, our Flight Searches Share Index shows that the spontaneous demand for domestic travel in the UK during the last month (between 17 June and 17 July) for flights in August and September is pushing three times higher than it was in 2019.

Yes available seats are down on 2019 by 36%. But still in the circumstances very encouraging. And some airlines such as Logan air, Air Lingus, Blue Islands, Eastern y Jet 2 have more availability for the next three months for domestic connections than in 2019.

The most common joke amongst British people when speaking about the summer is always ‘it will be over before you know it’. But this year that seems to be different and the data shows us that people are enjoying it more. The question is, will they be back? Maybe too early to tell yet, but a lot of destinations in Southern Europe need to respond quickly if they don’t want to risk losing market share for many years. 

This post is also available in: esSpanish