According to a report this summer from the British Hospitality Association, the wider hospitality sector has grown GVA (gross value added) faster than any other industry since 2009. Things are looking rosy, and I say this as someone who represents a company which is a direct by-product of the boom. But believe me, it hasn’t always been this way.
The question of why many hotels and restaurants weren’t performing well up until the last decade is a complex one, but it seems that Brits’ desire to look overseas for their leisure options certainly played its part. We have had a huge hand in the Turkish property market mushrooming; the growth of Spain’s foreign tourist industry to become the most competitive in the world (The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, World Economic Forum, 2015); and the pouring of millions into casino coffers every time one of our big name boxing stars fights in Las Vegas.
But at some point in the last decade, we have learned to love holidays on home soil. Industry commentators have drawn a line from 2008; the start of the recession in the UK. It is seen as the critical time at which things started to change. With less money in their pockets, it seems that Brits became more receptive to discovering holiday options closer to home.
For some, this might have meant cutting down the regularity of their foreign vacations - to once a year, or once every two years. For others, foreign adventures were now simply not an option. This meant looking inwards when planning our holidays.
But to attribute the rise of British based holidays solely to the economy is simply misguided; there were many other vital ingredients which have been thrown into the pot at the right time. There was a marked change in perception towards taking UK breaks, led by high profile figures. Former prime minister David Cameron’s regular jaunts to Cornwall and the Rooneys’ caravanning holiday in Prestatyn spring immediately to mind. The ‘Staycation’ had well and truly arrived – it’s cool, exciting, perhaps slightly colder, but overwhelmingly budget friendly.
An element which we should not overlook is the significant enhancements which have been made to products and services themselves. With the influx of budget airlines offering British holidaymakers cheap flights to Europe, the Staycation had to be a proposition which provided more than simply the opportunity to save money.
For those taking city breaks, there are now an increasing number of hotels offering spas of a quality level unheard of a decade or so ago - rest and relaxation is now not something which is confined to the beach. Caravan parks have changed remarkably, with on-site amenities upscaled and an ever increasing number of leisure options such as cinemas and restaurants. British seaside towns are no longer reliant on the unpredictable weather and are attracting a foodie crowd, with Michelin starred restaurants popping up in previously unfashionable locations such as Whistable, Emsworth and Port Isaac. And we have welcomed a new word to the hospitality industry – ‘glamping’ is here, and it is worth noting that the concept of a luxury rural break is recognised as having been born in the UK.
While the Staycation movement had been bubbling away for the best part of a decade, it is in the last two years that it has really taken flight. Again, we cannot ignore economic causes, and the tumbling pound in the post Brexit era has undoubtedly provided a reason to shun Euro breaks in favour of home adventures.
Recently, research by Airbnb showed that four out of five Brits will take a Staycation in 2017; travel marketers Sojern found that searches by Brits intending to book summer 2017 holidays in the UK rose by 23 per cent; and The Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism singled out the outdoor hospitality industry for its “stellar performance during the recent global financial slowdown” .
While they are currently in vogue, I sincerely hope Staycations are not a flash in the pan. Brits taking British holidays is good for the economy, and good for the country.
By Mark Bebb, managing director at Love2Stay