Gary Noakes rounds up ABTA’s trends and destinations to look out for in 2019.
Holidays continue to be a spending priority and some exciting destinations will grab attention over the next 12 months, ABTA reveals in its Travel Trends report.
Despite Brexit, summer 2019 overseas package and accommodation bookings in October were up 12 per cent year-on-year as the industry moved into the peak selling period. The weaker pound however
means holidaymakers are more cost-conscious, with 51 per cent saying they would spend the same as last year and only 25 per cent – down six points – saying they would spend more.
More people took an overseas holiday in 2018 than at any time in the previous seven years. However, average spend in 2018 was £562, down £24, highlighting the search for value that may continue in 2019 if the pound’s worth shrinks following Brexit.
Victoria Bacon, ABTA director of brand and business development, says: “Despite the political uncertainty, forward bookings for the year ahead are positive so far. This is encouraging, however we continue to be cautiously optimistic, as people’s desire to book early may be because they want to get their destination or holiday of choice at the right price and the political and economic situation around Brexit is still fluid.”
Other trends that ABTA found included a focus on the longer overseas holiday of seven nights or more in 2018 – bucking previous trends towards shorter durations. ABTA’s research shows consumers cut back on the number of shorter holidays at home and abroad during the year. The number of short breaks (one to three nights) in the UK fell slightly from 1.3 to 1.1 per person, and the number of short foreign breaks from 0.4 to 0.34. However, city breaks remain the nation’s favourite holiday type.
Cruise is one key growth sector with, perhaps surprisingly, 53 per cent of 18-24 year olds saying they were keen to try it. Despite cruise lines adding ever more attractions such as rock climbing walls and go-kart tracks, food and drink remains the most important factor for 78 per cent of cruise travellers.
Domestically, last year’s hot summer is expected to boost 2019 UK bookings, and Bacon says this “bodes well”, but adds a note of caution: “The UK is competing with many overseas destinations that offer excellent value for money, which is expected to be a big driver for consumers in the year ahead.”
Five key trends for 2019
This year will see responsible tourism go mainstream, ABTA believes. Nearly half of consumers said sustainability was important when booking and 36 per cent said they would opt for one travel business over another if its environmental record were better, compared with 23 per cent in 2014. Travel companies are taking action, with Thomas Cook pledging to remove 70 million pieces of single-use plastic in the next 12 months and TUI looking to deliver 10 million greener holidays by 2020.
ABTA also hails the return of the trusted travel expert. The good news for agents and operators is that 45 per cent of ABTA’s 2,000 interviewees said they were more confident booking with a travel professional.
The new Package Travel Regulations and better consumer-facing technology will spur the growth of tailor-made, ABTA believes, because more arrangements are now classed as packages. Meanwhile, wellness travel will also feature more, with operators such as G Adventures adding mindfulness and nourishment programmes to their offering.
Technology will also begin to make the whole holiday experience seamless, with facial recognition and home luggage collection becoming mainstream.
ABTA’s Destinations to Watch
Bulgaria: Summer bookings are up 30 per cent and Bulgaria’s second city, Plovdiv, shares 2019 European Capital of Culture status. Bulgaria’s value and the spotlight on Plovdiv position it well for 2019.
Costa Rica: The focus on sustainability will keep this conservation world leader high on the wish list.
Denver: More flight options mean cheaper fares to the Rocky Mountains for hiking, biking and winter sports, with Denver a cosmopolitan city diversion.
Durban: New British Airways flights this winter bring South Africa’s surfing hotspot within easy reach.
Galicia: Northern Spain’s Atlantic coast remains relatively undiscovered but is also easily accessible.
Japan: The Rugby World Cup and new BA flights to Osaka will increase Japan’s profile, while ABTA’s Travel Convention in Tokyo will focus industry minds.
Jordan: New budget flights to the expanding Red Sea resort of Aqaba bring another twist to Jordan’s attractions.
Madeira: The Atlantic island’s sedate image is changing thanks to its growing reputation as a surfing, adventure and activities destination.
Poland: Now served by more UK flights than mainland Spain, Poland offers so much more than just city breaks.
Thessaloniki: Greece’s historic second city is enjoying a renaissance after the redevelopment of its 5km waterfront.
Uzbekistan: A more relaxed visa process means this Silk Road former Soviet Republic will feature on the adventurous traveller’s radar.
Western Australia: Qantas’s 17-hour non-stop flight to Perth has made the west of this vast country the entry point for more visitors.