Study: UK's travel and tourism market
The trend among consumers for organising independent travel over the Internet continues, and the traditional travel agencies are finding it hard to survive in their current format. Most are reducing the number of high-street branches they operate.
The UK travel and tourism industry serves three main markets: domestic tourism by UK residents within the UK; outbound tourism by UK residents travelling abroad; and inbound tourism by overseas residents travelling to the UK. In 2005, total expenditure on UK travel and tourism was £69.11bn, a total of 235.2 million trips were made and 1.36 billion overnight stays were made.
Between 2001 and 2005, the inbound sector was the best-performing of the three in terms of number of trips and bed nights spent. The performance of the domestic market was more subdued.
The domestic travel and tourism market has experienced a number of difficulties since 2001, including terrorist actions and the ongoing availability of low-cost outbound air travel, which has made overseas holidays much more attractive and economical.
Within the inbound market, the growing number of direct, low-cost services from Eastern Europe to many regional airports across the UK has boosted short-stay visitor numbers, and strong economic growth across much of Asia, most notably in China, India and South Korea, is helping to increase tourism from these countries to the UK. Faced with repeated price wars on mass-market package-tour destinations such as Spain and the Canary Islands, many tour operators in the outbound market have been refocusing their strategies on niche sectors. Others are moving steadily away from the congested short-haul market towards long-haul destinations and specialist holidays, such as activity breaks.
The trend among consumers for organising independent travel over the Internet continues, and the traditional travel agencies are finding it hard to survive in their current format. Most are reducing the number of high-street branches they operate, while others are refocusing their retail presence to address the change. One leading chain, for example, is turning its travel agents into Web support centres, which help customers to book online. This development could dramatically redefine the role of the travel agent, resulting in further store closures in the future.
There is concern within the travel and tourism industry that a growing number of holidays or flights purchased online do not have insurance cover and, as a result, could prove to be costly for the consumer should the airline, tour operator or hotel go bankrupt before or while they are away. Many consumers are also opening themselves to financial risk because they wrongly assume they are covered — either through the travel operator or by their insurance — against companies collapsing. In 2005, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other regulatory bodies backed a parliamentary bill to levy £1 on all air passengers leaving the UK, in order to build up a fund to protect those left out of pocket by airline failures. The proposal failed, however, and it is now up to holidaymakers to ensure that they are financially protected.
The UK travel and tourism market is forecast to show further expansion between 2006 and 2010, with the outbound and inbound markets expected to outperform the domestic market. Nevertheless, the hot summer of 2006 is believed to have boosted the number of domestic tourists and expenditure, and could produce longer-term benefits if hot temperatures are repeated in future years. Conversely, environmental concerns, such as the high levels of carbon emissions from aircraft, together with the negative impact of mass tourism on the environment in general, could lead to higher taxes being imposed on the industry, which, in turn, could affect both inbound and outbound visitor numbers.