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Staycations: can miracles come true?

17th March 2021

Thank you to Martin Evans, The Tourism Business, for this week's guest blog.

Whilst “zoom”, “pivot” and “unprecedented” might be the words of the moment, “staycation” can’t be too far behind, with nearly every travel programme, article and blog highlighting the fact that staycations are the only game in town for the UK tourism industry this year.

In truth, UK destinations have benefitted not only from 28% inbound visitor growth in the eight years between 2011 and 2019, but also, according to VisitBritain, from 18% growth in domestic tourism trips within Great Britain over that period. And there hasn’t been a time during that period when media and the industry itself haven’t uttered the words “it’s a year of staycations”.

Having said that, even amateur statisticians can’t help but have noticed that VisitBritain’s forecasts for inbound and domestic tourism in 2021 (made at the end of 2020) meant that if staycations were to fully take up the slack of the gaping holes in the visitor economy left by the lack of international visitors and business travellers this year, then the UK staycation market would have to rise by a whopping 212% just to fill those holes! Miracles might come true occasionally, but with Mintel only forecasting 22% growth in the second half of the year against 2019 figures, not this time.

However, taking the “glass half full” approach, there are certainly some silver linings which, if considered and actioned this year, can set up UK destinations better to handle the inevitable battle which will occur when the overseas market opens up and does its best to lure UK residents abroad in 2022 and 2023.

First, there’s the opportunity to fully segment the staycations market and match your tourism product to the myriad segments and sub-segments which have developed and are still developing. I’m thinking cycling, where the government’s positive approach to making Britain a cycling nation must surely spin off to destinations and their tourism products. Or watersports, where, having myself become an enthusiastic owner of a kayak recently, I have joined a group of 61,999 other “paddlers” on British Waterways’ books. What a market to attract to UK destinations, all of which have sea, river or lake attractions to offer these people!

I’m not sure if “Pet Owners” is an accepted staycation niche segment – but it should be! With a lockdown boost having taken place, there are now 6.6m households which own and care for dogs in the UK. And with Brexit making it more difficult to take dogs overseas, have you revisited your “Pets Prefer UK Holidays” destination plan?

Secondly, we can turn to Partnership Marketing. With hotel and attraction marketing budgets being savagely cut (HotStats reports that hotels across Europe saw an average 65% cut to their marketing budgets in 2020), more and more operators will be looking to partnership marketing to enable their budgets to stretch further in 2021. DMOs are so well placed to review their partner packages – which I know many are already doing - and also to turn their hand to act more as a conduit to forging direct relationships between their leading operators. A sort-of dating agency if you will. I remember this was done well in the past in Teesdale in County Durham, where the DMO acted as a great driver for the area’s three leading attractions to work together.

Thirdly, many destinations and operators do already partner with events in their locality. I personally think that with the adult population population fully vaccinated, Christmas and its “winter staycation” opportunities including Christmas markets, festivals and hotel and self-catering festive breaks, will hit record heights in popularity this year. It should also be said that now is also the time to fully plan for the impact and opportunities of other events: around the European Football Championships (11th June to 11th July), the school summer holidays and any planned changes to them, the Rugby League World Cup in Britain (23rd October to 27th November), the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee long weekend (2nd to 5th June 2022) and of course the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (27th July to 7th August 2022). All great staycation opportunities for destinations around the UK!

Martin Evans is Managing Partner of The Tourism Business and a former Marketing Director of Yorkshire Tourist Board. He can be reached on 07702 912938 and at martin@thetourismbusiness.com

Staycations: can miracles come true?