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Will 2011 Bring The Death Of The Staycation?
This is a guest post from Steph Wood, writing on behalf of holiday-rentals.co.uk
With the British economy subject to a 0.6% contraction in the last months of 2010, there’s talk in some quarters about the possibility of a double dip recession. If we are indeed due another recession, this must mean that the current one must finally be over – as a recent graduate, you’ll forgive me for not realising that the end of the recession was common knowledge. Accustomed as we became to the recession being declared ‘over’ once every six weeks in 2010, it became difficult to tell whether the recession was indeed over, what with its effects being felt long after the numbers started recovering (but this is a groan for another time, perhaps).
In UK tourism, recession meant fewer vacations abroad, but better news for local holiday resorts. The new word wheeled out for the phenomenon was ‘staycation’; the day-trip to the theme park, the holiday cottage or perhaps just in front of your sofa for the duration of the World Cup (since the weak pound wasn’t going to help you get all the way to South Africa). But as the UK starts shaking off many of the long term effects of recession, is the staycation dead?
In 2008, I was working in a customer service role at a major UK tourist attraction on the Brighton seafront, seeing first hand how the British public were coping with the recession. Or I would have, if the near constant rain hadn’t completely dampened all enthusiasm for going outside for much of that summer. People may have been travelling within the UK for their holidays, but they were unlikely to spend all that much while they were there. From this unsteady beginning, it was apparent that the staycation wasn’t unconditionally beneficial for the British Economy.
But the summers of 2009 and 2010 were rather more agreeable on the whole, and British holidaymakers responded enthusiastically, pushing the fading self-catering family holiday, camping and caravanning industries into a period of renewed relevance. Hotel bookings were up, memberships for the National Trust and English Heritage were booming and seaside retail outlets were prioritised in restocking due to ‘unprecedented’ demand.
With uneven air fuel taxes and higher VAT causing some consternation, it’s perhaps too early to suggest that every last person in the UK will be abandoning the British seaside. But research into trends certainly seems to be indicating that habits will be realigned with those of the pre-recession sooner rather than later. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey recently revealed that British tourists were ultimately taking fewer holidays abroad and spending less whilst on holiday. 30% of their 2000 respondents had simply not taken a holiday in 2010. Conversely, 15% of those who had gone on a holiday had spent more on their holiday than the previous year.
With more people having experienced Holidays in the UK in the last two years, there’s surely a case to be made for repeat custom in the years to follow. 2011 and 2012 are years that are seemingly pre-prepared for success. 2011 will involve an extra bank holiday and a royal wedding that international media has been at pains to sell to a potential tourist market. Then 2012 is very much the UK’s year. Not only will it be hosting the summer Olympic games (after having proven itself a global power at the last Olympics), but 2012 will be the Diamond Jubilee year (60th) of Queen Elizabeth II. And if the English royal family still exists for any other reason aside from attracting foreign tourism, that reason is strictly under-wraps.
The staycation looks set to stay for the immediate future then, and its efforts to pre-saturate the UK’s tourist infrastructure ahead of the coming years in the international spotlight are a fortunate coincidence. But it will take more than good fortune and coincidence to keep the rose of English tourism flourishing beyond 2012.
Image source – Steve Webster @ Flickr