It’s no secret that Brits love a holiday. In 2019, we took nearly 60 million holiday trips overseas, and 15 million of those were to Spain alone.
Then the pandemic arrived. Suddenly, a quick hop over to Europe seemed very far away… but our time in lockdown had left us needing a holiday more than ever. Google UK searches for ‘staycation’ increased by over 500% in 2020, and searches for ‘UK travel’ were up by a whopping 2500% year on year.
Now, as the UK heads into summer 2021, overseas holidays seem even further away, with a £5000 fine for those who travel overseas ‘without a reasonable excuse’ set to come into force. Whilst the term ‘staycation’ itself is a little contentious – for some, it refers to days out from home, whilst for others it implies holidaying in your own country – 50% of Brits will be looking to unwind a little closer to home for a second summer running.
So, if you’re in the UK travel and tourism industry, how can you make the most of this opportunity? How might you exceed the expectations of this new audience, whose default is to swap British skies for sunnier climes, and inspire them to continue ‘staycationing’ for many years to come? Here’s a few ideas based on both our research and work with clients over the past year:
Create a sense of escape
Brand Vista recently surveyed over 1000 people in the UK to understand what they were looking for from their holiday in 2021, and found that the three biggest drivers were ‘to relax’ (63%), ‘a change of scenery’ (54%), and explicitly ‘to escape’ (48%). Given that we’ve all spent many months at home, it’s no surprise that our desire to experience new places has only grown stronger. Whilst allowing people to immerse themselves in something, or somewhere, new can help scratch the escape itch, the BBC Series ‘My Unique B&B’ features a range of quirky B&Bs set in unexpected places (including a 70s Californian Airstream and a pigsty) where customers can really get away from it all. The Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard in London has taken the notion of ‘escape’ a step further - offering guests the opportunity to experience their favourite destinations, from a night in Paris to a safari extravaganza, all from the comfort and safety of the capital.
Build opportunities to bond
In the same survey, we also found that spending time together with family and loved ones will be especially important in 2021. 27% of respondents said that they are looking for ‘family fun’ on their next break, with a further 25% planning to spend their holidays with friends and family that they haven’t seen. Creating the right environment for these groups to reconnect and offering something for everyone will be key to helping them get the most out of their break. Bedful is an online booking service that B&Bs, holiday homes and campsites can use to help their customers experience true togetherness; simply by allowing them to book a camping pitch next to one another. A simple idea, yet rarely available – and it makes all the difference for family holidays or trips with friends!
Many companies have adopted 24-hour free cancellation policies to tackle current uncertainty but, even in regular times, a major benefit of holidaying in your own country is the increased level of flexibility it brings. Travel when you want, stop where you want, leave whenever you want… not to mention the fact that you’re not limited by luggage space! Make sure your customers are able to really see the benefit of this natural perk by offering flexibility around check-in/out times wherever you can, and encouraging them to stay and use your facilities even when their room key has been handed in. Luxury Hotel group Peninsula, have introduced ‘Peninsula Time’, this allows guests to check-in/out at times that suit them at no extra charge. This was introduced in 2021 as the group recognised the increased difficulty in travelling, they hope that giving their customers the gift of extra time will provide them with greater peace of mind and therefore a better experience.
Flex your green credentials
Our research found that the perceived risk of airports and planes is a major factor keeping Brits from travelling overseas, but staying clear of the airport can alleviate more than just health concerns. The impact of flying is one of the major environmental concerns of UK tourists, with 65% of 16 – 44 year olds, and 53% of those over 45, concerned about tourism sustainability overall. The National Trust now offer a range of eco-friendly cottages, where 100% of profits are invested back into conservation work. With electric car charging points, eco heating, and even a few cottages with earth closet lavatories, guests can support the environment without compromising on comfort or adventure.
Keep it Covid-safe… with your brand as the anchor
Whilst we all know that communicating your Covid-safe activities can really help reassure customers, it’s important to strike a balance that maintains the holiday vibe. Use your brand as the anchor to ensure both safety and strong experience. Hilton Hotels attempt to make mask-wearing a more friendly experience by putting masks on their iconic Conrad bears in guest rooms, with hand-made reminder cards to kindly remind guests of the importance of wearing masks and staying safe.
Whilst we all hope that a return to overseas travel isn’t far away, 2021 presents a real opportunity for the UK travel and tourism sector to open customers’ eyes to the beauty and adventure that lies just beyond their doorstep. With so many poised to enjoy a home-grown summer, creating opportunities for them to escape and bond with loved ones, with greater flexibility and environmental friendliness than ever before, could make experiencing the Great British Summer a holiday dream that’s here to stay. We can’t wait!
Rise of the Staycation: there’s no place like home
Lois is a CX Strategist with a background in research and the world of employer branding. She enjoys the range of challenges that working agency side brings, alongside being able to use a wide variety of research methodologies.
Find out more about Lois