The UK outbound tourism market remains very buoyant. Bookings for summer 2018 are up +5 percent following a good start to sales that was backed up by a strong peak in sales in January and February.
January is the largest booking month for summer holidays, typically accounting for around 15 percent of bookings for the entire season. Data from the GfK Consumer Confidence measure shows that the last three Januarys have all recorded a small uptick in the headline confidence measure, as households start the year with renewed hope and belief. January 2018 has been no exception to this, and this renewed confidence has resulted in a five percent increase in bookings for both January and February.
Looking at the summer market by destination, mid-haul destinations are driving the market, up +16 percent, while short-haul has stayed flat and long-haul is down seven percent. The mid-haul sector has benefitted this year with tour operators significantly increasing their capacity to Turkey, re-opening Tunisia and continuing to support the positive sales in Greece, Cyprus, Croatia and Bulgaria.
Spain and Portugal are both seeing small declines, following two or three years of growth, but that is not surprising, given the wider choice of holidays and destinations now available through mid-haul.
A key driver of the growth seen is family bookings, with 61 percent of the incremental passengers being families. Family bookings are seven percent ahead of last season, and there is a trend toward earlier booking this year. There are also signs of tighter management of holiday budgets: looking at duration, over 90 percent of the family growth is from seven-night holidays, and, looking at board, 75 percent of the family growth is from all-inclusive.
All-inclusive has become the UK holiday of choice over the past few years. Consistent growth is continuing this summer, standing two percentage points ahead of the total market and accounting for over 60 percent of hotel stays.
One of the other key trends for summer 2018 is the movement to shorter durations. A foreign holiday is seen by many Brits as a must have, and moving to a shorter duration is one way of helping to budget for it. There is growth in all durations up to 13 nights, and declines in all those for 14 nights and over, while the traditional 14-night holiday now accounts for just 25 percent of bookings - a decline of six percent.
The Beach holiday has long been a favourite for the UK and this continues to be the case, accounting for just over 80 percent of holidays booked. Cruises (up five percent) and Cities (up seven percent) are also proving popular this year.
GfK's Travel Insights is based on travel bookings at the point of sale from around 2,450 travel agents and 30 tour operator brands. The booking data is sourced from reservation and back-office systems and is updated on a weekly basis.
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