With 50,000 visitors to East London’s ExCeL, WTM is one of the most powerful annual gatherings of tourist boards, travel buyers, sellers and promoters. Simon Condon, Deputy MD in MSL’s Consumer Division processes the news and views to come out of those three days, and in this article, reflects on how to strategise and future-proof according to the outcome of Brexit.
Travel and tourism in a post Brexit world
Travel and tourism in a post Brexit world
In 2017, Brits took 46.5 million overseas holidays according to National Statistics, and 75% of these trips were to European Union countries. There’s no doubt outbound travel will continue to grow whatever the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU — but an eye-watering $11 billion hangs in the balance depending on the form Brexit takes. What sounds like good news for some, could play out as devastating for others. A concern for panellists in the Brexit Britain session, was that innovation and funding in tourism were most at threat with Brexit looming. The future of funding proved to be the top issue for polled members of the Tourism Alliance, which represents 200,000 UK businesses. Kurt Janson, Director, mentioned they are working on a Green Paper or the government with 10 Big Ideas to Boost Growth and Employment in the Tourism Industry.
A ‘light Brexit’ would see a boost to outbound travel, while a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is likely to impede growth. With concern from consumers over the cost of flights, visas and currency going up, nervous Brits will opt for holidays in places where travel requirements are unlikely to change, which is a favourable scenario for non-Schengen countries (such as Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Montenegro, Turkey and the UK itself) hoping for a January booking-season spike.
With Britain due to leave the bloc at the end of March, Brexit, whatever shape it takes, will bring some good news for the tourism business at home — and will be a driver for value-for-money trips to Turkey and Tunisia. If agreeable ‘divorce terms’ can’t be reached, more Brits will most certainly be happier holidaying at home in the short term. The market research company, Euromonitor International predicts that no deal would mean around five million fewer outbound trips taken globally by 2022 — with France, Portugal, the United States and Spain the destinations set to lose out most.
The destinations which gained the biggest boost in British travellers in 2018, were all non-EU, with Turkey up 57.5%, Egypt 42.3% and Tunisia 461.9%.
Research commissioned last month on behalf of Simon Kucher reveals there will be an increased appetite for domestic travel with 14% of respondents planning to take more holidays in the UK. This trend represents a sizeable growth opportunity for homegrown and overseas accommodation providers, hotel chains through to holiday resorts. With the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit, there is an opportunity for travel brands in the UK to dial-up the ease, familiarity and comforts of staycations within their communications.
This growing demand for domestic travel also presents exciting opportunities for Great Britain’s regional tourism boards to shape campaigns that portray their offerings as credible alternatives to their on-the-Continent counterparts. In light of North Wales being declared by Lonely Planet as one of the top places to visit in 2017, Wales Tourism & Business, the Welsh Government and individual business operators put this down to an innovative and risk-taking strategy which successfully saw them pitch their destination as a go-to for soft adventure.
Targeted communications and social media strategies are king in helping counties, regions, attractions and accommodation in the UK grab the spotlight when seducing domestic visitors. Strong example: Visit Lincoln mobilised social media to move them up 56 places to the top spot in this year’s English Tourism Social Media Index through a content direction aimed at bringing history to life, with director Mike Leigh filming in Lincoln for his new film Peterloo.
Podcasts are proving a great way in which tourism businesses are bringing their stories and destinations to life. Relatively cheap to create, they have loyal audiences — highlighting another big takeaway from this year’s WTM: it’s more about quality of engagement than quantity. Lisa Francesca Nand, founder of The Big Travel Podcast, said podcast listenership was showing huge growth.
In the UK 6.1 m people listen to a podcast every week, a 10-20% growth year-on-year both here and in the US.
Another of the panel discussions saw delegates hear that a recent poll by Wanderlust magazine found 70% of companies plan to spend more on video content and almost a third will spend less on brochures. Lyn Hughes editor-in-chief, was one of many media spokespeople to put forward a case that print is regaining momentum. “People surf the net, but swim in magazines,” she said. “We have seen a resurgence in print in the last two to three years.”