Ten per cent of consumers spent more on long holidays in the first quarter of the year as they look to learn new skills and explore off the beaten track destinations, new research reveals.

Many consumers also prioritise holiday spending over other leisure categories, above all when their budgets are tighter

More than a third (39%) said they would prefer to save for a holiday rather than spend money on other leisure activities, according to Deloitte’s latest Leisure Consumer report.

However, the latest data suggests that consumers will favour short breaks over longer holidays in the second quarter.

Net spending on short breaks is up by four percentage points compared to a year ago, while intended spending on holidays is up by only one percentage point.

“Our research has shown that consumers remain positive about their future spending on leisure travel with planned net spending in the second quarter hitting positive territory,” the study, based on a poll of 3,000 people, said.

“While the traditional holiday operators have had a challenging first half of 2019 and the Brexit delay does not seem to have boosted overall holiday demand, a few specialist operators have reported some positive short-term impact.

“While holidays continue to be one of the most popular areas of leisure spending, consumer expectations on what a holiday is have evolved notably over the
last three years.

“The experience-seeking consumers are increasingly using holidays as a way of enriching their lives by immersing themselves in new cultures or learning new skills.

“Consumers increasingly see holidays as an opportunity to escape their ordinary lives and to try something different, whether through a yoga or health retreat, an expedition cruise or courses and workshops.

“Holidays with classes and workshops have seen a 90% increase in consumer demand between 2017 and 2018 while demand for wellness experiences grew by 69% globally.”

The reported added: “Recent travel sector mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and partnerships have also largely focused on allowing established brands to buy into strategic innovation, mainly on the customer experience side.

“Innovation-led M&A could very well continue in coming years as the sector focuses on digitising its internal operations to improve productivity and operational efficiency.”

Simon Oaten, partner for hospitality and leisure at Deloitte, said: “Holidaymakers are increasingly veering off the ‘beaten track’ to seek a unique experience. As a result, new flight routes are jetting consumers off to lesser-known destinations, and holidays offering classes, workshops and wellness experiences are on the rise.

“For today’s leisure consumer, experience is everything. Successful businesses will be those that offer something different and unique to leisure consumers, giving them a reason to try something, or travel somewhere, new.

“Looking ahead, four in ten consumers are positive about their personal finances for the rest of the year, but Brexit uncertainty will continue to create some consumer caution which could deter some spending.”