Steve Turner provides insights into the challenges and opportunities shaping the UK's travel industry. Founder of CMAC Group, Steve, shares valuable reflections, emphasising the crucial role of onward travel solutions in addressing unexpected challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about several difficulties - including a rise in living costs, and an increase in issues concerning air travel.
Spending shifted towards purchasing goods rather than services as people were told to stay home, however many organisations encountered difficulties in maintaining supplies, resulting in price hikes, particularly when goods had to be imported. Following this, Russian’s invasion of Ukraine and the fall in the number of people in work further impacted the cost of living.
The challenges related to air travel arose due to a shortage of staff during the pandemic. The reduced availability of people who are essential for air travel operations such as check-ins, security checks, and boarding, created delays throughout the travel process. This resulted in longer wait times, increased stress and a general decrease in the efficiency of the air travel experience.
Both these factors have had a substantial effect on people's travel choices in recent times. People have had to reconsider how they spend their leisure time, and, for many, that means enjoying themselves closer to where they live.
A study conducted by Statista in 2022 highlights the influence the cost-of-living crisis has had on UK citizens' holiday spending; 25% of Brits have either reduced their spend or stopped spending on holidays altogether due to financial challenges.
Travelling outside the UK is also becoming more expensive. Plane tickets, accommodation, and exchange rates are all on the rise. And with an increase in flights being cancelled or delayed and strikes causing issues – all of which can add up to more costs for travellers - more and more people are opting for a staycation instead.
According to GoCompare, 18% of travellers were deterred enough by the aviation industry’s staff shortage problems in 2022 that they opted for a staycation instead in 2023.
The term 'staycation' refers to a holiday spent in the home country rather than going abroad, or involves day trips to local attractions whilst staying at home. Domestic travel offers a more pocket friendly and convenient option than going abroad. Shorter travel times, familiar amenities, and the freedom to take spontaneous trips are some of the main reasons people are drawn to it.
In 2023, people in the UK are reported to spend £875 on average for a staycation (American Express), with the total expenditure on domestic UK holidays projected to reach approximately £25.9 billion in 2023.
A new trend called 'staycation snacking' has emerged in the last few years. This means that instead of taking long and expensive holidays, people are opting for shorter breaks, more often. They want to enjoy different places in the UK without spending too much time or money at once. According to Statista, 20% of people in the UK prefer the Southwest as their main choice for trips in Summer 2023. Scotland is the second favourite at 12%.
Traditionally, the busiest months for staycations are during the UK school holidays. Specific events throughout the year, like the King's Coronation, the Eurovision Song Contest, and significant international sports competitions, have also led to an increase in staycations this year. A growing number of individuals have opted to use cars for their holidays in 2023. It's easy to see why – cars offer convenience and flexibility, and factors like the ongoing rail strikes are likely to have played a role in this decision.
However, when a lot of people travel by road at the same time, there's a higher chance of things going wrong, such as breakdowns or other problems. That's where CMAC comes in. We work in partnership with breakdown recovery providers and insurance companies to help if things don’t go to plan - and find a solution to get travellers on their way.
We’ve witnessed an unprecedented surge in onward travel bookings this year. Onward travel refers to the continuation of a journey from one place to the destination. It involves the next leg of a trip that allows travellers to proceed to their final or intended destination.
CMAC is well-positioned to meet this demand, by offering timely assistance in cases of travel disruptions or breakdowns. Our commitment is to help travellers navigate unexpected challenges and find suitable alternatives. When a vehicle cannot be repaired at the roadside, CMAC steps in to arrange alternative transportation, ensuring that individuals reach their destinations. Additionally, in situations where accommodation is needed, we extend our services to find suitable rooms for travellers. Our goal is to provide comprehensive support, addressing the diverse needs of travellers when their journeys face unexpected obstacles.
As we look ahead to the upcoming half-term in October, the upward trend in UK getaways is expected to continue. It's anticipated that the cost of living will also continue to play a role in influencing this trend in 2024, as people seek breaks that align with their budget constraints. This trend is expected to persist as long as the cost of living remains high.
In response to the rising cost of living, the Bank of England has been raising interest rates since the end of 2021 to curb inflation. This might make things cost less in the future, including travel.
The Bank's objective is to bring inflation down from 6.8% to a target of 2%. The expectation is that inflation will gradually decrease and reach the 2% target by early 2025, allowing for a more stable economic environment.
With this in mind, CMAC’s responsibility remains to be prepared and proactive in minimising any disruptions for travellers during their much-needed holidays. What’s great to see is that the demand for affordable, convenient, and hassle-free trips is driving more people to explore the fantastic destinations that the UK has to offer.
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CMAC is an award-winning ground transportation business with over a decade of industry experience. With access to over 2.5 million+ vehicles globally, CMAC takes pride in serving as a trusted partner to many prominent breakdown recovery brands, delivering unparalleled onward travel services.
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