Recovery in international leisure travel from the UK is still two years away, an in-depth study will forecast today.

During last year’s economic crisis, outbound tourism from the UK fell by 11.8% compared with the previous 12 months, the Forecast Update – Recovery In Sight? report from Euromonitor International shows.

It predicts a further fall of 6.2% in the current trading year, with another drop of 1.6% expected in 2011.

Positive growth figures do not return until 2012, but in volume terms the UK outbound industry will remain far below pre-crisis levels. This will amount to a loss of 13 million outbound travellers over a period of four years.

An improvement of just 2% is predicted in 2012 followed by 2.5% the following year.

But growth is then tipped to slow in 2014 to 1.5% to reach 57 million departures.

The macro-economic trends which drove the double-digit decline in 2009 are still relevant for 2010, with unemployment the major concern for Britons.

Overall, the global travel and tourism industry is not predicted to recover to pre-crisis 2008 levels until 2012.

And tourism receipts will not return to 2008 levels until 2013, with the hotels sector not showing recovery until 2014.

The findings, which suggest that the UK’s outbound tourism industry will not start growing again until 2012, will be released at today’s WTM Vision Conference in London.

Package holidays, which fell by 7% last year, will remain popular because of the value-for-money and protection they provide holidaymakers.

The UK experience reflects a global trend identified by the report which predicts a “multi-speed” recovery, with tourism in established economies, such as the UK, recovering more slowly than emerging economies.

India and China’s outbound tourism sector will increase by 8-10% over the next two years.

The leading ‘old world’ economy is Canada, where departures are tipped to increase by three to four per cent over the same period.
While many destinations remain expensive because of sterling’s weakness, domestic tourism within the UK also dropped in 2008/09 although at a slower rate than previously.

Euromonitor International suggests the unpredictable weather is a negative for the domestic sector, although any recurrence of the Icelandic ash cloud in the run-up to this summer’s peak season may persuade more people to holiday at home.
“The current crisis with the euro, however, may tempt some cash-strapped holidaymakers to take advantage of the stronger pound once the World Cup is over,” said the research company’s head of travel and tourism research, Caroline Bremner.
World Travel Market chairman Fiona Jeffery said: “The UK outbound industry was severely hit by the global crisis, as these figures reveal.

“UK-based operators need to ensure that their pricing and product mix reflects the current climate.

“There is also a business opportunity for innovative tourist boards and governments to make their destination attractive to British companies and travellers with incentives and support.”