With the ongoing passport fiasco putting thousands of foreign holidays at risk, and a strike by French air traffic controllers this week forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights, the prospect of a domestic holiday has rarely looked so enticing.
So it may be no surprise to find that several travel firms, most of which have a vested interest in the domestic holiday market, are reporting a dramatic surge in enquiries for UK breaks this summer.
HomeAway, which rents properties in destinations across Europe, said sales for stays in Britain had risen by 32 per cent since last year, for example. Research by Travelodge suggested that a “record” 74 per cent of Britons will be taking a holiday at home, while TripAdvisor reported that UK destinations are increasingly the most frequently searched for.
We’re certainly not taking fewer foreign holidays. The Office for National Statistics suggests that the number of Britons heading overseas has remained stable for the past five years, since the “staycation” phenomenon first emerged, and figures for this year will be the same as 2009. But we’re apparently looking to squeeze in more UK breaks too, and that dreaded buzzword is back with a vengeance.
Holidaycottages.co.uk, which rents properties exclusively in Britain, came up with 10 reasons why holidaymakers are “better off booking a staycation”. They included “UK summer temperatures to rival foreign destinations” (spot check: current temperature in Athens – 34C, current temperature in London – 21C), “The UK is home to the most beautiful beach in Europe” (supposedly Harbour Beach in Tenby, Wales – pictured below, make up your own minds), and “No currency issues” (because a week in Margate is worth it provided you can pay for a Cornetto in pounds).
“2014 looks like being the year of the staycation,” said Peter Gowers, chief executive of Travelodge, which has 467 hotels in Britain and Ireland (and just three in Spain). “This is the fifth consecutive year that the staycation trend has grown – more of us than ever before are being inspired to get up and go and explore what Britain has to offer.”
“Staycations are on the cards for Brits this summer,” added TripAdvisor, whose latest travel trends report revealed that six UK cities – London (1), Edinburgh (2), Manchester (5), Glasgow (9), Liverpool (12), and Birmingham (14) – were among its 15 most searched for destinations. None are exactly “staycation” hotspots; August break in Birmingham, anyone?
Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com, a UK camping company with plenty to gain from more people spending the summer in Britain, suggested that the passport crisis was responsible. “Passport crisis provides boost for staycation tourism,” read the press release. Yates added: “There is such a huge backlog of passport applications that many realising their holiday overseas might be at risk are looking at the UK – which is great news for the economy and rural businesses,” he said.
All of which will be welcomed by Helen Grant, Britain’s sports and tourism minister, who recently suggested that those affected by the passport debacle should stop fretting and start planning a domestic break. “There’s a lot to be said for the ‘staycation’,” she said in an interview with House magazine. “I’m very confident that people will get their passports. But if they don’t want to go away, we have some fantastic places to visit and holiday not that far from here.”
Even if we do take a holiday in Britain this summer, Helen, there’s no chance we’ll be calling it a “staycation”.