Whilst the leaders of the travel industry are getting hot and bothered about Brexit, fearing long queues at passport control, a lack of agreed regulations governing flights between Britain and the EU and enormous difficulties hiring staff, British holidaymakers appear oblivious to their concerns, reveals research release today (Monday 5th November) at World Travel Market London.
New research from ForwardKeys – which analyses more than 17 million booking transactions a day – has been specially commissioned for the opening of World Travel Market London. It reveals that, as of the beginning of October, forward air bookings by Brits for 2019 summer (defined as April to September) to EU destinations are ahead by 5.7% compared to the same point last year.
By comparison, British bookings to destinations beyond the EU are currently 28.5% ahead. One year ago, the growth rate of forward bookings to non-EU destinations was 4.3%.
Year-on-year growth of bookings made for summer trips
UK to the EU
UK to destinations beyond the EU
Comparable bookings made for 2019 summer
Comparable bookings made for 2018 summer
Forward bookings from the UK to the EU vs. the worldwide destinations excluding the EU for trips during summer months April-September 2019 vs. 2018 vs. 2017. Bookings were made by 30 September 2018 vs. 2017 vs. 2016.
Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said: “When we interrogate the flight booking data, looking at trends in the UK outbound market, the best description is ‘business as usual’ or if anything, the future looks brighter!”
For the 2018 summer holiday season (Apr-Sept), 28% of trips by British travellers to the EU were booked more than six months in advance, 32% were booked during the first quarter of the year, and 40% were booked during the season itself.
Therefore, whilst it is too early in the booking cycle to predict reliably how good the holiday season will be, the initial indications are positive.
Olivier Ponti continued: “We do not see anything much in the data to confirm a ‘Brexit effect’ on people’s booking behaviour for EU destinations currently. However, January is traditionally a very important month for holiday bookings, so if there is still no Brexit deal by then and consumers start panicking, the outlook could rapidly start to look very different.”
Looking back on the year to October, outbound travel from the UK grew by 3.2%. Besides the World Cup in Russia, which attracted many British soccer fans, the winning destinations were in the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa. Those destinations that were troubled by security fears, terror attacks, and UK Government travel bans three years ago are, at last, growing again in 2018. Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey registered impressive growth rates and a gain in market shares, at the expense of Spain, Portugal and, to a lesser extent, Italy. The fastest growing destinations for British travellers in 2018 were all non-EU countries.
Year-on-year changes of numbers of British arrivals in the destination
Popular non-EU destinations
Popular EU destinations
Ponti added: “The Aviation industry started its 2018/19 winter season last week and total available seats on the scheduled flights between the UK and the EU increased by 3.4%, compared to the previous winter season. This appears to be a vote of confidence in the market – particularly when, by contrast, capacity over the summer was 0.5% less than summer 2017. As for next summer, seat capacity provides no clear picture yet, because at least two main airlines operating between the UK and the EU are currently hesitant to share their schedules with the industry.”
Paul Nelson, WTM Portfolio Press & PR Manager, said: “Although consumer confidence appears to be undented, many of our exhibitors have seen Brexit as a massive cloud on the horizon for more than two years and time is running out fast. The warning from ForwardKeys about the crucial January booking period should urge politicians to seal a deal as soon as possible, to ensure that consumer confidence is maintained and that travellers can continue to cross the borders between the UK and Europe seamlessly.” (Ctrip TTD); Yi Liu (Huizuche); and Luis Garcia Cristobal (UnionPay International Iberia).