No more Brits abroad: Did the pandemic really change holidays in Britain?

No more Brits abroad: Did the pandemic really change holidays in Britain?

Restrictions on foreign travel have had a big impact on British holidaymakers over the last 18 months. In the first quarter of 2021, outbound international flights taken by UK tourists were down 94 per cent compared to the year before, while UK cruise passengers fell from almost 2 million in 2019 to 259,000 in 2020.

The impacts of these changes, though, have been misunderstood. The idea of a “staycation boom” has been much hyped in the British media, with claims that holidaymakers in large numbers “switched” international destinations for domestic stays during the pandemic. But this is wrong.

There’s a misconceived belief that Brits prefer international trips to holidaying in the UK. In fact, domestic tourism has always dominated British holidaymaking. British tourists took almost 123 million domestic holidays in 2019, compared with 93 million international trips in the same year. The pandemic didn’t make British holidays popular – they were already popular.

And in reality, the UK’s national tourism organisation, Visit Britain, estimates that there was a 60 per cent reduction in domestic holidays during 2020. It also predicts that 2021’s domestic tourism will remain well below 2019 levels. Rather than there being a boom in domestic trips, many are not going on holiday at all.

The countryside crush

Nonetheless, demand for some UK destinations and types of domestic holidays have changed during the pandemic. A report by the Resolution Foundation think tank shows a decline in city breaks, whereas holidays in coastal and rural destinations have increased significantly.

Increased demand for trips to the British seaside and countryside has led to “overtourism” in some popular destinations. In June 2020, a major incident was declared in Bournemouth when the beach became overcrowded. More recently in Cornwall tourists were urged to “stay away” after overcrowding caused a spike in Covid-19 cases. And in August 2021, visitors to Wales queued for 45 minutes to reach the summit of Mount Snowdon.

The popularity of rural locations has also resulted in a surge in demand for certain types of holiday accommodation. There was a significant increase in campsite bookings in popular locations such as the New Forest, Cornwall and the Lake District during 2021.

This is an excerpt from an article by Anya Chapman, originally published by the Independent.

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