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The changing face of our hospitality industry

The number of domestic tourists planning to spend more time on holiday in the UK will surge by a third this year, fuelled by millennials looking to escape from their smart phones and social media, according to a new report from Barclays Corporate Banking.

Hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions can expect to enjoy a bumper year as tens of millions of visitors are expected to flock to Britain’s coast, countryside and thriving cities like Birmingham, as domestic tourism enjoys something of new golden era.

The research report, The Great British Staycation: the growing attraction of the UK for domestic holidaymakers, surveyed 2,000 domestic tourists and 500 business leaders from the hospitality & leisure industry, and found that staycationers of all ages are planning to enjoy more holiday time at home in 2019.

The ‘selfie generation’ of 25-34 year-olds are more likely than any other age group to take their main holiday in Britain this year. Over half (52%) of staycationers in this age group said they plan to spend more time in the UK this year, compared to 2018.

Despite being synonymous with living their life on their screens, 70% said that a ‘digital detox’ would be an important element of their holiday, and an overwhelming majority (91%) cited ‘escapism’ as the biggest motivation behind their choice of destination.

Rather than being desperate to escape from their families, millennials said that they want to spend time together with loved ones more than any other generation (91%). With locations such as the South West, Scotland, the Lake District, Wales and Yorkshire being amongst the most popular destinations, the findings also suggest that many are yearning to unwind in the beauty of the British countryside.

According to holidaymakers, the main reason for the popularity of staycations is convenience (34%), followed by a desire to revisit places they have been to before (21%). Almost one in five (19%) say holidays in the UK are more affordable, with 18% of respondents choosing a staycation because of concern over the impact that Brexit could have on foreign travel and family finances.

Barclays’ report found that businesses are also witnessing increased demand. Over half (55%) of those surveyed said they had seen an increase in domestic tourism since 2017, and two in five (39%) had seen bookings being made further in advance.

In response to the findings, Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality & Leisure at Barclays, said: “It’s very encouraging to see that domestic tourism is thriving with more and more UK holidaymakers choosing to spend increasing amounts of their valuable leisure time closer to home.  There are various reasons for this but ultimately, it’s fairly simple. The top-quality services provided by our hotels, restaurants, resorts and leisure providers are helping the British public enjoy great experiences without having to travel too far. This is true for all ages, but it’s particularly pleasing that our study found younger people are being drawn to UK holidays.

“Operators will have to continue to adapt and invest in cutting edge technology to ensure that this trend persists, while at the same time finding innovative ways to appeal to all age groups wanting to enjoy the attraction of the UK.”

In the past five years, businesses have focused investment on new technology and new trends such as a desire for quintessentially British experiences.

Almost a third (32%) of businesses have invested in ‘nostalgic activities’ such as traditional cream teas, pub walks or visits to historical landmarks, and 27% have invested in experiential offerings such as wine tasting or local tours. A much smaller percentage of businesses are investing in health holidays (15%), yoga retreats (8%) or digital detox retreats (7%), which are key motivations for 25-34 year olds to choose a staycation in the UK. 

With convenience a key reason for Britons to choose to stay in the UK, businesses have also been investing in digital services that create more seamless user experiences. Of those that have invested, 62% have done so in the last two years. Over a third (36%) say they have introduced free services including smartphone check-in, payment via wearable technology, or location-specific notifications about offers and discounts.

Businesses have invested in new digital services to attract younger visitors (37%), as well as to keep up with current trends (58%) and to better compete with other hospitality and leisure businesses (44%).

Findings showed that different age groups have different preferences when it comes to the type of accommodation that they would choose. The youngest generation, 18-24 year olds prefer independent, Air BnB style services, whereas 25-54 year olds would choose self-catered accommodation such as holiday cottages. Those aged 55 and older preferred a mid-market hotel at the top of their priority list.

Britons clearly think with their stomachs, as just under half (44%) said that hotels that have a high-quality food offer are most likely to sway them to pick a location.  Experiences are also important, with 32% saying that curated visits and experiences are the next priority.

Hospitality businesses are already seeing their local economy benefit from increasing demand for domestic holidays. 40% have seen employment opportunities improve, 34% have seen an increase in the number of hospitality businesses in the area. These findings suggest that, with a tailored business strategy, hospitality businesses can not only make the most of rising domestic demand, but also benefit the wider economy in uncertain political times.


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