Changing Face Of Holidays In The UK
By: PETER JOYNER
Mainstream holidays in the UK have changed enormously in the last ten years as companies and tourism businesses struggled to cope with the constantly changing customer requirements. This has presented the tourism industry with a series of new challenges that are currently sculpting a new type of travel business.
To understand how the industry has changed and grown it is necessary to look at the internal and external influences that have forced this shift in the UK market These factors can be attributed to a number of changes in society, changes in technology and infrastructural developments that have result in the world becoming a much smaller place. However, to look at the first big change we need to go back 25 years.
The UK holiday market was still in a relatively secure position, with a large percentage of its holidaymakers still taking UK breaks in cottages, holiday parks, B&B’s and hotels. Then in the 80’s cheap package holidays had an enormous effect on the UK mass-market holiday businesses as value for money, guaranteed sunshine and better quality accommodation and food resulted in an exodus. During this period holiday businesses saw a massive fall in guests. This resulted in drastic changes in the way UK holidays were marketed and was the first in a series of challenges – that became opportunities – for the industry.
But it wasn’t simply the advent of the overseas cheap package holidays that presented companies with challenges and opportunities. Arguably the last five years has seen the greatest level of change in the UK market.
Changes in society during the last 15 years have had a great impact on the way people choose to book and take their holidays. The family unit and its 2.5 children changed. More people got divorced and couples had children much later in life as their career took priority. The traditional UK family holiday had therefore changed as their customers social circumstances changed.
These weren’t the only social changes. Working adults increasingly earned more money, but more so than ever before they had less opportunity to spend that money, and were in need of time to relax and enjoy their holidays. Again UK holiday companies and business had to adjust to this trend to ensure that their products matched the changes in the customer requirements.
Another major factor in the changing in UK holidays was a shift in booking patterns. As long as anyone could remember holidays had been booked directly through the holiday outlet or via travel agents – often 6/12 months in advance of that break. In 2000 this pattern changed forever.
The advent of the internet, and the continued growth of home PC’s across all markets, has had a revolutionary impact on the holiday market. For the first time people could independently search for, and book, their perfect holiday anywhere in the world. The could also leave everything to the last minute and decide to take holidays based on the five day forecast – rather than hoping the weather would be nice next June!
The final, and possibly the most important, factor in the changes to the UK market was the arrival of the ‘low-cost operator’. So not only could you book late using the internet, you now had the freedom to go anywhere (roughly with a five hour flight time) at the drop of the hat. The short break market, which had become increasingly important to the UK holiday businesses as traditional one and two weeks holidays dwindled, was facing competition with any city destination in Europe. Now a B&B in Bath had to compete with a hotel in Budapest.
So all of these factors, coupled with changes in customer needs, resulted in a whole new series of challenges for the UK tourism industry.
Potters holiday resort is on the Norfolk/Suffolk coast in the East of England and their website can be found at www.pottersholidays.com However, the UK market hasn’t stood still and to both combat the negatives, and take advantage of the positives, operators, hoteliers and tourist boards have begun to rethink the ‘product’ to respond to the enormous upheaval.
More than ever before tourism businesses are thinking about who their market is and whether they are offering the right product to suit their customer profile. Examples of this change can be seen all over the UK as companies and business are quickly responding to new opportunities created by the shift in customer requirements. The UK has woken up to the diversity of scenery, is rich history, traditional food and new standards of accommodation that has increased the expectation of guests at home and abroad.
Boutique hotels brilliant demonstrate this new way of thinking – a style of UK holiday that was only very niche has responded to the potential of young couples and empty nesters to offer a stylish and unique hotel experience. But it isn’t just ultra trendy niche businesses that have been successful. A great example of this is Potters Leisure Resort on the Norfolk coast. A traditional holiday park, they have adapted their holidays to cater for a new breed of holidaymakers. They now offer short breaks, good food, entertainment and top quality accommodation in an area of the UK holiday market many people considered dead – and they are thriving.
It is also worth noting that in the last few years another more serious series of factors have also provided the UK market with an additional boost. For example, the advent of terrorism, not just the threat of being caught up in the conflict, but the preventative measures that have been put in place, combined with seemingly erratic changes in global weather patterns, have never made the UK a more viable holiday destination for its residents.
So despite all of the challenges and changes the industry has seen over the last few years the picture isn’t all doom and gloom. Far from it. Like any market those business that can, and will, adapt to the give the customer what they want will reap the rewards.