UK travellers are taking shorter holidays to save money during the cost-of-living crisis, rather than trade down on the quality of their trip, according to new research.
The average length of booking for summer 2023 was 7.6 nights compared with around 10 nights in 2019, a study by Advantage Travel Partnership, the UK’s largest network of independent travel agents, has found.
Kelly Cookes, the organisation’s chief commercial officer, said: “That tells me people are not affording to do the length of trip they did before.”
Speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, Ms Cookes added that consumers don’t want to “trade down on the quality of their holiday”.
“What we have seen, from doing an investigation into the data and speaking to members, is that consumers do not want to trade down on the quality of their holiday, but we know that costs have increased,” she added.
“What they’re doing instead is decreasing the length of stay in the resort, so that they can continue to enjoy the holiday that would have done previously.”
There has also been a surge in late bookings.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Wet weather at home has driven a ‘lates’ market like we have never seen before”.
This summer, 50 per cent of the bookings received by the partnership’s members were from customers who departed within 12 weeks of their booking. In a typical summer, late bookings would account for around 30–40 per cent of all custom.
Ms Cookes said: “That shows me that people are waiting to see what that disposable income looks like, before they are potentially committing to having a holiday”.
However, UK consumers’ appetite for overseas travel remains strong.
Research released this week by Barclays revealed that, in August, consumer card spending on airlines had increased by 32.1 per cent year-on-year and spending with travel agents was also up compared with August 2022 (3.7 per cent).
Among Advantage Travel Partnership members, 64 per cent said the pricing of holidays is having a slight effect on the growth of their business.
Ms Cookes said opting for all-inclusive breaks was another way in which holidaymakers were managing their costs.
More than 30 per cent of bookings that Advantage Travel Partnership members received for summer were for all-inclusive properties.
“[Holidaymakers] know what that spend will be upfront and they’re not worried about an increase in exchange rates impacting them when they’re in the resort,” said Ms Cookes.
The two most popular destinations this summer were Spain (Balearic Islands, Canary Islands and mainland Spain; 30 per cent of all bookings) and Greece (12 per cent). The most-booked Greek destination was Rhodes, despite the wildfires that ravaged some parts of the island.
Looking ahead to the October half term, bookings are up 16 per cent compared with this time last year.
The Canary Islands have received the most bookings so far, while Europe’s cities are also proving popular for half-term breaks. City destinations accounted for 10 per cent of all bookings taken for the October school holiday, driven by Rome, Prague and Krakow.
As for Christmas travel, the Canary Islands are also the favourite among members’ customers, taking a 20 per cent share of bookings made for the festive period.
Meanwhile, long-haul bookings for Christmas are higher than they have been for the last few years, with Australia and the Far East among the popular destinations.