2012 Market Overview
The holiday market held relatively steady in 2012 in the face of low consumer confidence levels and little sign of economic recovery. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to date in 2012 UK residents have made an estimated 50.3 million visits abroad, unchanged from 2011. Holiday visits are down 1% while those for other purposes have increased.
The number of people taking package holidays has increased according to the findings of the ABTA Consumer Trends Survey. In 2012 nearly half (48%) of people who took a foreign holiday, booked it as a package, compared to 42% in 2011 and 37% in 2010. We believe this increase in packages can be attributed to people looking for greater value in the current economic climate, increased recognition of the protection that packages offer and the greater choice and flexibility of packages now available.
The all-inclusive market performed well in 2012 as holidaymakers valued the control all-inclusive holidays offer over budgets and not having to worry about exchange rates. The luxury end of the market also continued to perform healthily. The short-haul overseas market benefitted from the wet summer in the UK and a weaker Euro, with a noticeable rise in late bookings to warm destinations towards the end of the summer.
2012 was a momentous year for the UK with the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee. While it was a wet summer, domestic tourism numbers held steady.
One of the biggest travel stories of the year came early on in the shape of the Costa Concordia incident, although as discussed on p7, the incident appears to have had little long term impact on cruise bookings. Early in the summer the economic crisis affecting the Eurozone heightened, with rumours and questions arising over Greece and Spain’s remaining in the Euro, causing concern for many holidaymakers. While coverage initially negatively impacted bookings to Greece, over the course of the summer bookings rallied as holidaymakers recognised the good value on offer. Overall, ABTA is expecting bookings to be in line with 2011. Another big travel story of 2012 was Hurricane Sandy, while this caused widespread damage and disruption, the impact on travel and holidaymakers was kept to a minimum through excellent crisis and disaster preparedness systems in Cuba and the USA.
Consumers benefitted from increased financial protection from April 2012 as the Government extended the ATOL scheme to cover “Flight-Plus” holidays. There were a number of travel business failures although overall ATOL failures were lower than in previous years. It did, however, prove a challenging year for airlines with a dozen failing including Spanair and Malev. The failures heighlight the need for ATOL Reform to be further extended to include holidays sold by airlines.
The most popular holiday destinations in 2012 were: Spain, Greece, USA, France, Cyprus, Italy and Turkey. Political unrest continued to affect bookings to Egypt, despite popular tourist areas remaining unaffected, while elsewhere in North Africa visitor numbers were up from 2011 as stability returned to the region, particularly in Morocco and Tunisia.
2012 also saw further increases to Air Passenger Duty in spite of an increasingly vocal campaign against the tax by www.afairtaxonflying.org . In the summer 200,000 people wrote to their MPs calling for an independent economic assessment of the tax.
ABTA, which represents around 1,200 travel companies, saw its members’ turnover reach £30.2 billion for the 2011-12 financial year, which ended on 30th June 2012, compared to £29.3 billion in the previous financial year, which reflects the resilience of the holiday market and the continued popularity of travel agents and tour operators. Travel Trends Report 2013