UK hospitality and leisure industry set for bumper year

Destination UK is on the up with 63 per cent of international tourists more interested in UK holidays compared to last year.

British hotels and the hospitality and leisure leisure industry are set for a record year with a substantial increase in both home and international visitors planning holidays in the UK.

The Barclays Corporate Banking report, Destination UK: driving growth in the UK hospitality and leisure sector reveals the 2017 holiday and leisure preferences of almost 10,000 guests from the UK, continental Europe, the US, Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Among the 63 per cent of international holidaymakers who say they are more interested in holidaying in the UK than this time last year, perhaps unsurprisingly, 31 per cent cites the weaker pound.

However, more attention grabbing is the fifth of respondents reporting that TV programmes like The Crown are driving British appeal, particularly among Chinese (44 per cent) and US (26 per cent) guests, and that high-profile advertising campaigns (29 per cent) are having their effect on overseas audiences. Greater spending power (30 per cent) was also cited as a key reason why they were more interested in visiting the UK in 2017.

‘Staycationers’ attracted by convenience and the variety of holidays

The staycation’s popularity also continues to rise, with nearly a third (30 per cent) of UK holidaymakers expecting to spend more of their holiday time in the UK this year. The convenience of holidaying at home is the primary draw. Half of UK respondents choosing a UK break describe the familiarity of food, language and travel options as making the UK ‘hassle free’ with 31 per cent now more aware of UK holiday options.

Nearly four in ten respondents (38 per cent) of those citing cost as a factor behind a UK break say the weaker pound made holidays in the UK preferable to those abroad, and 39 per cent say a domestic holiday represents better value for money in 2017.

The research reveals that the average British budget for UK breaks is £800 with over a fifth (22 per cent) of holidaymakers planning to spend more than £1000 on their UK getaways. During their staycations, Brits also expect to spend an average of £309 on accommodation, £152 on dining out and £121 on shopping, if they were to spend time holidaying in the UK this year.

Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, says, ‘2017 looks set to be a strong year for the British hospitality sector with both domestic and international visitors increasingly intent on spending more time here.

‘While the impact of a weak sterling, at least temporarily, has boosted the UK’s international appeal, underlying this increase is the quality of our hospitality industry today and the UK’s enduring appeal as a truly world class destination.

‘Those holidaymakers who are more likely to visit today than 12 months ago are doing so for a range of reasons including the effect of UK operators’ advertising campaigns, the attraction of British TV programmes that have gone global and a case of simply having more money available to spend on holidays from which the UK is set to benefit.’

International holidaymakers influenced by Brexit

The majority of international holidaymakers (51 per cent) report that the vote to leave the EU has had no impact on their likelihood to visit the UK, and nearly a third (31 per cent) reported that they are more likely to visit the UK than before the Referendum.

However, the study also highlighted the role of the UK as a tourism hub with nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of those who say they would be less likely to visit the UK post-Brexit citing worries about onward travel to other European destinations.

This was especially important for guests from Australia (44 per cent) who are potentially looking to combine their visit with multiple European destinations owing to the longer travel distance.

Visas are also a concern as of the ten per cent of international tourists who said they are less interested in visiting the UK today than 12 months ago – nearly one in five (19 per cent) cite this as a worry.

Other international trends reveal the regions visitors are keenest to visit, with London (67 per cent) and Scotland (44 per cent) topping the list. Interest in Oxford and Cambridge is also notably higher for Chinese guests. Overall, tourists are eager to experience the UK’s landmarks (51 per cent), history and museums (44 per cent) and natural landscapes (41 per cent).

The average length of a UK visit is just over one week at nine days and the average budget for planned holidays this year per family, including airfares is £3443. However, American and Chinese guests blow even larger budgets on their planned holidays this year with average spends of £5230 and £5424 respectively.

Visitors from China and the US also have significantly larger shopping budgets, with visitors from these countries having an average of £800 and £713 to spend in British shops respectively, compared to the overall budget of £453 set aside by international visitors on average.

Experiences and technology rise up the leisure and holiday wish list

Younger UK consumers are more interested in a high-tech approach to the leisure sector than older consumers. More than a third (36 per cent) of 18-34s would be more likely to use a bar that invested in automated drinks dispensing, compared to just six per cent of the 55 and overs.

Younger consumers are also more comfortable with automated ordering in restaurants, with 43 per cent of 18-34s say they would be more likely to use such a restaurant compared to 14 per cent of the 55 and overs.

The current trend towards upmarket cinemas and bowling centres serving alcohol are also more popular with younger consumers. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of 18-34s say they would be more likely to use a cinema that served alcohol, compared to half of all consumers 55+ who say that it would put them off.

Regions such as London where this trend is most established, were much more likely to be interested (37 per cent) than guests from other regions such as the East of England where only one in ten (17 per cent) would be more likely to visit a cinema that offered alcohol.

Saul adds, ‘Our research points to clear differences in preferences between different ages of traveller with regards to tech-driven innovations. Offering guests tailored experiences will be key to success for operators in the UK hospitality and leisure sector in 2017.’

Further reading on hospitality and leisure

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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