2020 UK Tourism Trends

Here we take a look at how UK tourism has been impacted by coronavirus and identify 5 key changes to consumer behaviour…

COVID-19 has shaken the world to its core, affecting everything from how we live and work to how we spend our social time, and there is no doubt it has also changed how we holiday and spend our precious leisure time.

With more people spending time at home and embracing the pleasures of what is not only on their doorsteps, but also around the UK, we explore 5 key trends in consumer behaviour emerging as we all learn to live with Covid-19.  We also reflect and share insights on what this means for UK businesses and how they can adapt to survive and thrive.


1.On the Doorstep Exploration

For years, many people have overlooked what is right outside their front door and instead jetted off in search of sun, sea and sand. The pandemic has forced us all take note of our immediate surroundings and discoveries for many included those of joy and a thirst for more local exploration. Even if people still have the desire to travel abroad, with ever-changing quarantine lists, the fear of getting on a crowded plane and dealing with ever-changing government guidance means travel abroad is extremely difficult and will most likely stay this way for some months ahead.

As a result, more people are exploring local walks and areas of natural beauty, whilst spending their hard-earned cash right here in the UK. Auto Trader has seen caravan advert views up 18% and motorhome adverts up 17% in 2020, as many UK travellers seek out new tourist hotspots which are just a drive away. Online mentions of ‘Staycation’ have been up by as much as 41% in 2020 (Clickcity) and there has also been a rise in searches for holidays and breaks which involve going ‘off-grid’ – perhaps in response to consumers spending more time than ever online.

Businesses should be aware of all their local hotspots and make customers aware too, hence driving footfall and spend. They should also consider how they can add value and provide a positive experience for new visitors, taking into account their needs, to truly make the most of this increase in local travel and exploration.


2. Seeking the Magic in Everyday Life 

With many people confined to the four walls of their homes and gardens this summer and the likelihood this will continue into the winter months too, we are seeing a huge increase in people wanting to create unique, magical and memorable experiences to fill the void of activities that would  have usually taken place throughout the year. There has been an increase in purchases of added value products to help make life that little bit more special. Many businesses are using celebrations in the year to create added value packages for people to create magical and unique experiences in their own homes or in a socially distanced getaway setting such as woodland lodges or holiday homes. The luxury of organised events has been stripped from us all and therefore we are having to create our own, with an increase in products such as Bonfire night goody boxes, themed Halloween party packs and Christmas experience hampers for example. All of these can be enjoyed at home but also are a great added value offer for short breaks in the UK this winter. By offering added extras such as a decorated woodland lodge this Christmas or a luxury autumn/winter retreat you are helping consumers use their budgets in a different way, instead of not at all or delaying into 2021.

Many people are in search of enhancing and enriching their lives within the current restrictions, to either make up for the summer months lost or create magical autumn and winter experiences in the months ahead and fulfilling the design to capture these magic moments with that all-important Instagram snap.


3.A New or Re-Kindled Love for the Great Outdoors

With social distancing and the outdoors being the safest places to spend time with others during Covid-19, we have seen a surge in people spending more time outside and choosing to holiday in the outdoors, from nature focused holidays to walking and cycling holidays and people actively searching for wide open spaces and outdoor based adventures. Travellers who would usually seek a packed beach abroad may now be seeking a local luxury break with plenty of outdoor walks and cosy fires instead. This is reflected in sales of outdoor wear and equipment – outdoor supplier Bradshaw Taylor reported a surge in sales as families head outdoors for social distanced exploration and exercise.

Sales of puppies soared during lockdown, with monthly visits to online pet market place Pets4Homes, doubling to 20m compared to 2019. This may also result in more people venturing outside to exercise their pets. It’s therefore important that local businesses cater to the experience of those exploring the outdoors, whatever their needs may be, adding value with products such as rain macs or portable dog bowls or offering additional services such as bike hire and walking routes/guides. Being ‘dog friendly’ can also now be a key selling point for UK hospitality venues.


4.Tick Off that Bucket List

Whilst this may not be an option this year, in years to come we will likely see an upturn in visitors taking up those once in a lifetime holidays, climbing that bucket list mountain or booking that no-expense-spared dream experience. After a year of limited travel, those eager to explore will be keen to get back to it with a bang. Luxury and adventure are two things that we have all had to forfeit this year, we expect these are the things people will be craving the most and keen to get back into their lives.

Many people are using their time this year to plan and save for these experiences so as businesses we should be mindful of this and looking at how our offering lends itself giving consumers what they need and more.

We need to be thinking about this now, what experiences can businesses offer to fulfil this need for exploration, travel and luxury – what experiences are nearby to promote for future years to come.


5.A Healthy Way Forward

More now than ever, consumers are being reminded of the importance of staying healthy, not only has this seen an increase in alternative forms of exercise and an increase in making healthier food choices, but it has seen more people show an interest in health and wellbeing retreats and awareness of mental and physical health in general.

More people will be looking after their health, booking active holidays such as cycling and walking aswell as yoga retreats and wellbeing spa breaks and there is scope for businesses to enhance this e.g. hotels offering free classes or dedicated ‘screen free’ retreats, complete with a food and drink offering which complements the experience.


Life for many feels very limited at the moment and in order to survive and thrive, businesses must think carefully and adapt their offering to cater for even the tiniest of customer and visitor needs as we support consumers in enjoying special experiences right here in the UK.


Author: Laura Kirk


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