A sunny, dry Spring can do wonders for the UK tourism industry. People who have not yet booked a foreign getaway for their summer break start to consider the possibility of a heatwave, and use it as an opportunity to explore the gems right on their doorstep and maybe save a few pennies.
Known as a ‘staycation’, more and more people are opting to stay in Britain and either enjoy day trips near home or travel to another part of the country. A recent study by the hotel chain Travelodge estimated that staycations could give the UK economy a £7.2 billion boost this year, with over a third of people who responded to the survey saying they planned to holiday in the UK.
Peter Robinson is Principal Lecturer and Head of the Department for Leisure. He explains the notion of staycations emerged in the USA in 2008 as a way of describing a change in people’s holiday patterns away from long haul destinations.
“Essentially it has evolved as a reaction to the increased cost of travel and the perceived risks of travel, for example delays and cancellations to flights due to volcanic ash clouds. If you stay in the UK, you can go by train or in your own car – although it has to be said that these forms of travel are not always cheap.”
While unpredictable weather means the UK cannot appeal to the holidaymaker solely in search of sun, sea and sand, the country has a lot to offer the ‘wanderlust traveller’. This is someone interested in learning more about heritage and culture, which is closely linked to slow tourism; this describes tourists who want to get to know an area by exploring it in depth. These travellers often select alternative forms of transport such as walking, cycling, or heritage transport. They make a real contribution to the economy because they stay within a single destination for a longer period of time.
Peter explains: “Staycations are at their most beneficial when people spend money in local shops. If people are buying food and souvenirs locally that can, in turn, benefit the destination through increased employment, business opportunities and taxes.
“When people are on holiday, they are inclined to spend more money. If people stay in their own homes and do day trips they can also choose to enjoy higher priced activities, such as theme parks. Some places, such as Alton Towers and Warwick Castle, promote numerous special offers and discounts, and what might once have been considered an expensive day out then becomes affordable.”
Advertising has also assisted the tourism industry in the UK, with Visit England, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales all investing in television adverts that raise awareness of what is on offer at home.
“UK attractions have changed their image, and staying at home and going to certain destinations is more accepted. There is not that sense of peer pressure that you have to go abroad at least once a year, as we are increasingly surrounded by publicity promoting UK destinations.”
The popular paid and free destinations remain largely unchanged, with places such as Alton Towers, the Eden Project, Chatsworth House, Kew Gardens and the national museums in London featuring highly.
“What is interesting is that a number of those attractions have increased what they offer. Longleat, known best for its a stately home and safari park, now offers a variety of additional attractions for the family market, including mazes, a train and even a Postman Pat Village, whilst Alton Towers has developed into a US style resort with hotels, a waterpark and an adventure golf course sharing the site with the theme park. Some places have realigned their pricing strategy to appeal to the staycation market.”
The one thing you can never guarantee in Britain is the weather. In 2004, flash floods caused extensive damage to the historic Cornish village of Boscastle while the Severn Valley Railway in the Midlands suffered £2.5million worth of damage due to a landslide in 2007.
People may be put off by two or three seasons of bad weather, but Peter says these attractions have received overwhelming support from the public and increased visitor numbers when they re-opened.
“There is also an increased acceptance of the unreliability of the British weather. The tourism industry has helped by promoting indoor activities and all-weather attractions,” he says.
But there are downsides to staycations. Peter explains the UK is seen as quite an expensive destination and people may still be able to find a last-minute cheap week away in Majorca for less than the cost of a week in the UK.
“If there is an increase in day trips then there may be a decrease in overnight stays in bed and breakfasts and hotels, resulting in a negative affect on the hospitality industry. However the accommodation industry is very good at offering discounts and developing new markets.”
It is also important to recognise, as Peter says, that we still need inbound tourism, as that tends to be the higher spending market, and the US and Japanese markets remain relatively stable, with many new travellers visiting the UK from China and India.
The School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure offers courses which allow students to consider contemporary issues in the tourism and hospitality industry.
Students explore how people travel and what influences their decision-making processes on the tourism, hospitality and event and venue management courses. They also explore how the hospitality industry relies on different markets and therefore promotes itself to key audiences. The growth of staycations could even be of relevance to sports management, as the 2012 Olympics will undoubtedly have a positive impact on tourism with people flooding to the capital.
It is clear that the tourism and hospitality industries have risen to the challenge of tempting Brits to consider staying close to home.