What’s a staycation when it’s at home?

Staycations hit the headlines in the years following the 2008 economic crash. Suddenly this Americanism which in the US actually meant staying at home rather than going on any kind of holiday, became the byword for a British holiday – at the seaside, in the country or exploring cities. And from 2009 there was a measurable increase in the number of British holidaymakers having a break in their own country – a staycation.

At the same time there was a drop in overseas holidays. According to the latest statistics (from VisitEngland) the staycation has continued as a popular option and overseas holidays are recovering. But there are interesting trends which impact on museums and galleries. People are still worried about the economy, jobs and how to make ends meet. In the most recent UK survey only one in five felt better off, and one third were spending less on holidays in general. Bargains is the key word for the next few years, younger people in particular have got used to looking for “a good deal”.

More short breaks

Holidays are changing shape with more short breaks and fewer longer holidays. Cities in the UK are benefitting from this style of tourism while the seaside holiday continues to decline. The great travellers are the over-55s and the “affluents” who travel again and and again. Breaks are booked at short notice, online, for UK and overseas trips.

It’s also interesting that despite the recession and less money overall to spend, most people haven’t given up their spend on leisure, spending proportionately the same or more on leisure activities. There is a feeling of entitlement about holidays and leisure.

Looking ahead – it’s quality

So what will make the difference in the next few years? There are threats of course, wars, volcanic ash disruption possibilities, terrorism, so some Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries are off limit, people switching to further afield or choosing that staycation. Quality is the key word, and that applies from camp sites to boutique hotels. It’s the accommodation sector in the middle, the 2 to 3 star hotels, disappearing B&Bs, and some self catering, which are suffering, finding it difficult to raise their standards. The recession has increased the supply of quality cottages – second homes used occasionally but now let for additional income.

Weather has an impact on short breaks, but those who have planned a longer walking holiday or city break in the UK are not influenced by a few rain showers. The growth of event based tourism is phenomenal. Everyone wants to be where something is happending, a folk festival, a golf tournament, athletics…..look at London 2012 and what happened in Glasgow this year. People are looking for something new and different, they want to be part of something, but it’s got to be good!

(Information based on a Tourism Society Seminar on 25 September 2014 at London’s Guildhall. Research by VisitEngland)

What happened to Day Trips?

So the real staycation is now the homecation, staying at home and taking day trips. So how have they fared during the recession? Day trips were measured in the past by intermittent annual interview based surveys. This stopped in 2005, and in 2011 a new Day Trip Online Survey was launched by VisitEngland.

This is a continuous weekly survey covering 38,000 adults annually in Great Britain.

So what counts as a day trip? The new survey uses an internationally agreed definition – to put it simply it’s a 3 hour or more trip away from home in pursuit of one or more defined leisure activities. Visits to museums and galleries fall into the “Visitor attractions” category.

There were 1,500 million day visits in Great Britain in 2013 with a spend of £54,000 million. Overall day trips have declined slightly, particularly visits to live events (but note comments above) and special shopping, while visits to attractions increased. Seaside and rural visits decreased more than cities, again confirming the general tourism trend. Most day trips are done by car (except in London) and the average distance travelled has not changed much despite the rise in the cost of petrol, althugh overall people are spending less overall on days out.

More on this in greater detail can be found on the Visit England website.