Friday 3 May 2013

Travel trends in and from the UK in 2012

Last year was an atypical year in the United Kingdom. Concerns about the economy, the crisis in Europe and the violence that started with the jasmine revolution in Arab countries were put aside by the celebrations for the Queens diamond jubilee in June and the hosting of the Olympic games between July and September.

It should have heralded a boom in tourist visitors to Great Britain.

Visitors from abroad did rise, but only by 0.9% in 2012. And rather surprisingly actually fell in the third quarter when the games were held, by 4.2%. All the expectation of a huge influx of tourists was proved optimistic. The crowds in the streets and in the tube never materialised to the chagrin of hotel managers and greedy games ticket sales people.

Visits abroad by UK residents were  down by a marginal 0.5%, so tourist visits abroad at 56.5 million are still depressed from the heady days of 2008 when 69.0 million visits were recorded. A decline of 18% is very serious but relatively speaking, not as bad as visits to North America, which dived by nearly 27%.

Countries heavily dependent on tourism revenue are handicapped by their Governments austerity measures but still need to do something.

The Irish republic lost 28% of UK visitors since 2008. For 2013 its advertising campaign invites people of Irish descent to attend ‘the year of the gathering’. A tactic that could be adopted by India where 28 % of UK resident visitors already have Indian passports. Many million British passport holders are of Indian descent. Jamaica has a similar opportunity. 39% of visitors from the UK in 2012 were visiting friends and relations.

Some countries benefit from historical ties with Great Britain, and distance by encouraging visitors to stay longer in culturally familiar surroundings. Average length of stay in Australia and New Zealand is 36 nights.

And then there is advertising.

Tunisia, which showed an actual increase in visitors from 353,000 in 2008 to 388,000 in 2012 talks loudly with an increased advertising spend of  ‘There’s more to celebrate’.

Countries where tourists still feel unsafe include Egypt with a fall of 39% since 2008, appear dazed.

For concerned tourist boards, make sure tourist have easier access to your country, exploit your cultural and geographic assets, create stronger ties with tour operators and tell prospects why this year is the time to enjoy the unique advantages of your dream destination.

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