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Travel chaos and cost of living leave Britons holidaying at home

Chaos over air travel and concerns over the cost of living have sparked a wave of bookings by Britons for domestic summer holidays, offering hope to an industry grappling with financial pressures and a deteriorating economic outlook.

British domestic holiday companies had feared 2022 would put an end to the summer staycation boom of the first two years of the pandemic, when heavy travel restrictions and fears of catching Covid-19 prevented holidaymakers from traveling internationally.

But requests and late bookings for domestic summer vacations have risen since early June, after flight cancellations caused major travel disruptions during the school holidays and mild weather swept across the country.

Last minute bookings for summer holiday accommodation from Sykes Holiday Cottages, one of the UK’s leading holiday rental companies, were up 22 percent in early June, compared to the same period last year.

Just under 40 percent of Britons said they were more likely to choose a domestic holiday over a holiday abroad than before the pandemic, according to polls taken in mid-June and published Friday by VisitBritain, the British tourist office.

Of those who opted for a staycation, 65 per cent told VisitBritain it was because breaks in the UK were easier to plan, 54 per cent said they wanted to avoid long queues at airports and the risk of canceled flights, and 47 per cent said it was was because holidays in the UK were cheaper.

“Whether families think they can’t afford a summer vacation abroad, or their flights have been cancelled, or the potential of being stuck at the airport for 12 hours with four children has simply put them off, many are choosing to stay at home. said Sir David Michels, president of the Tourism Alliance, a lobby group. “That is positive for the British tourism industry.”

Michels said he did not expect domestic holiday demand this summer to surpass the summer 2021 highs, but it is possible that demand could mirror last year’s levels.

He added that the pound’s depreciation this year “would certainly not hurt the domestic market” as it would “deter some people” from traveling abroad. The currency has fallen 9.3 percent against the dollar and 2.2 percent against the euro since the beginning of 2022.

Home bookings on Awaze, a vacation rental company, were flat in June compared to 2021 and up 21 percent from 2019, while bookings for August this year were 6 percent higher than the same month last year and 46 percent higher than the previous year. in 2019. July was slightly lower than in 2021.

Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said the UK has continued to follow the staycation wave “despite the return from overseas travel”.

“The uncertainty surrounding Covid restrictions has seemingly been replaced by another concern – disruption to overseas travel – while increased pressure on household budgets is leading many to turn to staycations as the more cost-effective option,” explains Donoghue.

On Thursday, British Airways check-in staff voted to go on strike for wages later in the summer, paving the way for further disruption to air traffic.

Travelers queue at security at London's Heathrow Airport on Wednesday
Prolonged airport delays have increased the appeal of British staycations © Frank Augstein/AP

Awaze chief executive Henrik Kjellberg said the travel chaos had “benefited” the domestic tourism market as vacationers tried to “avoid the stress and hassle” of crowded airports.

He said people “had been introduced to the charms of staycations during the pandemic” and that they were “here to stay”, adding that travel restrictions due to the pandemic had been combined with a “gradual trend of people thinking more and more about their Carbon Footprint” to encourage more families to consider vacationing locally.

Meanwhile, members of the trade association UKHospitality reported a 20-30 percent increase in inquiries about the platinum anniversary weekend in early June from customers seeking late summer vacations or during the October school holidays, according to chief executive Kate Nicholls.

Nicholls said the extension of the staycation boom would be a lifeline for independent companies, which have been hit hardest by cost pressures from supply chain problems and the war in Ukraine.

“British holidaymakers will tend to go for the less obvious options,” Nicholls says. “There’s a section of customers who will always go for a brand, but there’s also a section of domestic visitors who are much more confident about going off the beaten track and seeking out independents in search of boutique options.”

The success of domestic tourism has become more important as inbound tourism is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025.

The industry’s job now is to convince British holidaymakers to keep returning in the coming summers. “If the sun continues to shine, I think it will be a much more crowded UK with UK residents than the summers before the pandemic,” Michels said. “We have had a lot of people at home on holiday for three years now. I don’t think this will go away.”

“The longer this trend continues, the stickier those habits become and the more beneficial it will be for communities across the country,” Nicholls said.

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