Britons postpone holidays amid ongoing confusion

Chris Leadbeater
·4-min read
Uncertainty has cast a lingering shadow across July and August breaks - getty
Uncertainty has cast a lingering shadow across July and August breaks - getty

British tourists are either postponing their holidays until 2021 or putting them off until the autumn amid ongoing confusion as to what sort of travel will be possible this summer.

These are the key revelations in statistics released by UK tour operator Destinology – which has seen a large proportion of its customers opt to avoid the core months of 2020 entirely, as worries about the safety of travel, quarantine requirements and a lack of clarity as to which countries will be open cast a lingering shadow across July and August.

Today has brought renewed uncertainty, with the Government appearing to be ready to abandon its plan for air-bridges with selected destinations – an idea that has been widely discussed in the last fortnight – in favour of a broader approach, with travel likely to be possible to as many as 75 countries that are deemed to be low-risk in terms of Covid-19.

However, full details have yet to be revealed – and after weeks without proper guidance, the inconsistency is starting to be reflected in would-be holidaymakers’ buying instincts.

Destinology says that half its customers have decided to delay their next big overseas holiday until next year. An exact 50 per cent of those who were booked to travel with the company during the lockdown months of April, May and June have pushed their break back to the same month in 2021 – rather than attempting to take it in the summer season.

A precise 40 per cent of the company’s customers are re-booking for later this year. However, the trend is to wait. September is the most popular month for couples who want to go away, while families, constrained by school term dates, are happiest to rearrange for October, when the autumn half-term may be a more reliable time for travel with children.

The impasse is also likely to have a knock-on effect for availability of holidays in key windows in 2021, with bookings already rolling in for the most popular times for travel.

“With October 2020 and May 2021 our most popular timings for families to rearrange their travel - followed by Easter 2021 – next year’s school holidays look likely to be more heavily booked in advance,” says Deborah Windle, managing director of Destinology. 

“And for adult-only bookings, rearranged holidays in the popular shoulder-season months of September 2020 and June 2021 will make availability tighter for these windows too”.

Destinology has also observed an increase in the general length of holidays – as tourists frustrated by the lockdown attempt to maximise their time abroad. Among travellers who were brave enough to arrange a getaway (for a later date) during the lockdown months of April, May and June, confirmed bookings have had an average duration of 10.7 days – compared to a mean length of 9.3 days on bookings made in the same months in 2019.

“Many of our clients have had to rearrange more than one holiday due to travel restrictions, and so have opted to splash out and spend more on one trip later this year or in 2021, rather than re-book multiple breaks,” Ms Windle continues.

The company has, though, seen a rise in interest in high-summer holidays, as the prospect of borders reopening has come closer in the last fortnight. Last Friday (June 26) was its busiest day of trading since February. It is only now, though, that continental Europe has returned as the most in-demand location among enquirers. During May and June, customers were focused on more distant shores, with the Maldives ranking as the destination booked most frequently in both May and June. “With the Indian Ocean proving popular, and with demand to travel falling in the region’s peak season of December-February, this segment is fuelling a higher average spend,” Ms Windle adds.  

A lack of confidence about travel abroad has also been witnessed by accommodation rentals agency HomeAway, which has seen a leap in searches for properties in the UK.

Coastal areas in England are most popular with would-be tourists – Cornwall, Devon, Norfolk and Dorset respectively top the company’s list of most searched-for destinations. The Welsh seaside is also on travel radars, with Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire both making the top 10. Scotland puts in an appearance too - the Highlands are placed seventh.

However, even among UK travellers who intend to stay at home this summer, HomeAway has noted a nervousness about taking a holiday. In a survey of 2000 British citizens conducted for the company during June, one in three (34 per cent) said they were worried about sufficient social distancing in their chosen destination, while almost a quarter (23 per cent) said they were concerned about the cleanliness of accommodation.