A holiday in your own country rarely looks as appealing as one abroad, but this summer, we may all need to adjust our preferences.
In 1938, the Holidays with Pay Act gave rise to the glorious annual leave — a luxury we cannot imagine going without these days. In the post-war years of the 1950s, families migrated from the mill towns to the coasts of Blackpool, Scarborough, Brighton or wherever was closest.
It was the heyday of holiday camps and fish and chips at the seaside. At this point, the notion of a holiday abroad was very exotic and largely confined to a trip across the channel. After the great British holiday peaked in the 1970s, the Mediterranean package holiday was born, and Spain became the number one holiday destination for UK travellers.
Today, the UK Government is working with its international partners to find a vaccine to defeat the coronavirus. Until that vaccine is found and the virus is defeated, will Britons be put off going abroad? It’s difficult to imagine that the first thing people will want to do, in the strange period between social distancing easing and a vaccine being found, is take a 15-hour flight or opt for a packed city break elsewhere in Europe.
But a return to British holidaying may arise not just because people seek to avoid the hassle of longer trips, but also due to a fondness for home and community which has been one of the few silver linings of lockdown.
When the lockdown loomed inevitable, many city dwellers fled their urban lives. Adult children moved back in with their parents in the countryside or scrambled to find an alternative location to spend lockdown. Those who have spent lockdown in the city have struggled with a lack of sunlight and space to relax at home.
Indeed, the wellbeing risks of this confinement were significant enough for the government to adjust the lockdown with a key focus on parks and less restricted outdoor movement. A survey by Savills found that 4/10 home buyers are now more likely to buy in the countryside than they were before the pandemic hit. At the extreme, London house prices could fall significantly as the capital loses its lustre.
To state the obvious, some have had far better lockdown experiences than others, with outdoor space being the key factor. On the day lockdown was announced, Google Trends demonstrates a huge spike in searches for ‘allotment’. The nation has been gardening, baking, reading and generally living a slower pace of life. This rural renaissance is totally at odds with the ‘rat race’ of city life.
The summer holiday season is uncertain, and travel must be permitted by both the UK and the receiving country. The virus is hitting different parts of the world at different times and many will feel nervous about travelling abroad in these circumstances. Talk of quarantine periods upon arrival and heavily controlled flying conditions will likely put many people off a trip abroad this year. A big proportion of the UK workforce are furloughed or newly unemployed and a recession is on the horizon, so finances will be tight for many.
Yet, the British people have been largely stuck indoors for three months and will seek leisure and recreation in a post-lockdown UK. Airbnb in France is surviving through 90 per cent domestic bookings as French people seek a break within their own country.
The UK ban on non-essential bookings was set until May 31 but will likely last until July 4 when hotels are allowed to reopen. Might we see a similar trend as in France when it does? Pubs, restaurants and hotels will be the last venues to return to normal, so self-catering options will be a popular choice. When extended families reunite or more than two households can mix, a group trip within the UK will logistically be much easier than getting on a flight. The sports which people are currently allowed to play, which will likely remain the safe option for a while, are golf and fishing amongst others. These activities lend themselves well to a domestic holiday in Britain.
VisitEngland are currently running a virtual campaign in honour of English Tourism Week. They are focussing on encouraging the government and other stakeholders to support the recovery of English tourism, which has taken a huge hit. People are using the Twitter statement, ‘I support English tourism because …’ to demonstrate their loyalty to England’s third largest export.
Despite tensions over unwanted lockdown visitors, tourism agencies in beauty spots are using this campaign to urge visitors to return when it is safe to do so. VisitBritain are currently campaigning for an extra bank holiday in October, which could add millions to the British economy.
The coasts of the UK and rural hotspots such as the Peak and Lake Districts offer a change of scene, fresh air, the opportunity to swim in the sea or walk and cycle. Lockdown suffering has demonstrated how much the average person values these luxuries, and whilst locals in such areas may resent an influx of visitors, the receiving communities will need a significant boost in trade.
Indeed, British people have shown a desire to support small businesses at this time; ordering from local takeaway services and embracing innovative ways to make money from companies which rely on footfall. The trends themselves are very British: Google searches for ‘cream tea delivery’ rose by a remarkable 750 per cent in the 30 days leading up to May 22.
This community spirit could well translate into holiday plans, as well as a wider willingness to support the national tourism industry. Whether or not the focus is on England or Britain as a whole will depend on how Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland ease their lockdowns. So far, the devolved nations have diversified from England in their response.
The British are a contrary people, and this is demonstrated by their holiday habits. Some want a luxe resort on the French Riviera, whilst others don’t want to stray far from their local pub and beloved football. However, these groups may all find themselves on the same coastlines of England later this summer. Cheers?