The tourism industry in England is a multibillion pound industry, generating £106bn annually and receiving close 29.8 million visits from overseas travellers. To remain competitive, English tour and activity operators need to keep an eye on the changing source markets to help them better understand the needs and wants of their customers.
Here are 4 of the most important source markets shaping British travel trends this 2016.
1. Domestic travel is on the rise, here are 3 reasons why
In 2015, more than 300 million nights were spent away from home as Brits slowly recovered from economic uncertainty. Instead of taking lavish vacations abroad, many have been opting to enjoy their leisure time at more wallet-friendly local destinations.
There has also been a growing Visiting Friends or Relatives (VFR) trend where people are capitalising on their limited leisure time by turning family time into holiday trips.
"People’s interest in the past and heritage is fuelling a sense of Britishness - events like the Royal Wedding are great for us - but the broader implication is for authenticity and meaning," according to Danny Homan, former Director or Communication and Develpoment at the Historic Royal Palaces. This new sense and search for authenticity is also driving domestic travel as people want to find their roots again and experience something that is quintessentially British.
Check out Visit England's report on Domestic Leisure Tourism Trends for the Next Decade for more in-depth analysis on the domestic travel market and practical insight for tour and activity operators to capitalise on this.
2. China is the UK's fastest growing inbound market
The average absolute growth in terms of spending in 2015 for China was £86m and 25% in terms of relative growth. Other countries showing growth include the USA, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In terms of relative growth, Taiwan takes the lead at 47%.
China's growing market is coveted all over the world and tapping into this market is key for tour and activity operators to survive in the coming years. The Chinese are curious and want to learn and experience new cultures, but they lack the exposure and knowledge that Western customers have and many in the tourism industry take for granted. As a result, tour and activity operators need to go the extra mile to educate this new customer segment and deliver an authentic experience.
3. On the other hand, number visitors from Russia is quickly declining
Russia saw a 19% decline in its number of visitors to the UK in 2015, spending £43m less than the year before. Lithuania also showed signs of negative growth in 2015, with a 10% decline in spending. Other countries showing negative growth include Norway, Serbia and Brazil.
If you're interested in learning more about the UK's inbound markets, head over to Visit Britain's Inbound Tourism Trends for more information.
4. The EU remains the most important source market, according to UKinbound
In light of the recent Brexit referendum that's about to be voted on, UKinbound released results from their survey to show that 82% of their members believe that the EU remains not only an important source market for them, but also an important source of labour. The fact that 27% of their members' workforces are made up of EU citizens highlights the importance of the freedom of movement in the EU.
I've included a short clip from the BBC featuring Deidre Wells from UKinbound in a discussion about the importance of this freedom of movement in the UK, and how it could impact the British tourism industry. Other topics brought up in the discussion included the potential effects of a stronger or weaker British Pound and the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the EU.
For a clearer picture of how the EU has contributed to UK's tourism industry in the past year, you can also head over to Visit Britain's latest monthly data or their monthly inbound update for more information.
Update: Since the voting for the Brexit referendum has come to pass, and with Britain choosing to leave the EU, we've put together some tips on how tourism companies in the UK and Ireland can prepare themselves to face the uncertainty in the upcoming months.
What are your thoughts on travel trends in the UK? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to better promote your tourism products to these new markets? Here's how to get started.
Written by Nicole Kow
Having graduated from the UK, Nicole travelled around Europe before joining TrekkSoft's marketing team. She is now based in KL and regularly blogs about her travels at Next Train Out.