Almost half (48%) of people are seriously considering a main holiday in the UK this year, suggesting that the ‘staycation’ phenomenon is far from a one-off. The figure compares with 39% last year and 29% in 2009, according to a new study.

Additionally, more than three quarters (79%) of those who took their main holiday in the UK last year are seriously thinking about returning in 2011 compared with only 66% in 2009.

The perceived increasing hassle of air travel was cited by 38% as a reason to holiday at home this year compared with 29% in 2009. The results come from an annual travel survey by independent market research firm BDRC Continental.

It shows that while many holidaymakers initially choose a ‘staycation’ for economic reasons, the UK tourism industry is exceeding expectations and people plan to return to UK holidays because of quality of service they receive and enjoyable locations.

When asked why they found the UK to have increased its appeal, 29% mentioned better hotels/accommodation, 24% better restaurants/catering and 19% mentioned that the UK was more customer focussed, delivering better service. This on top of 45% who cited ‘good scenery’.

In the current economic climate, 29% said they were eager to support UK tourism businesses. Just over half (51%) of those who like to base their holiday around their hotel felt that the UK’s appeal has increased compared with 36% of others.

Similarly, 41% of those in professional occupations felt that the UK has increased its appeal in recent years, compared with just 19% in 2009, the research, based on national sample of 1,008 adults, found.

This is backed up by VisitEngland’s national occupancy survey which reported hotel room occupancy for 2010 up to 67% from 62% in 2009. People are also prepared to book early in order to secure their domestic holiday, with the report showing that 23% had booked a UK holiday by January 2011 compared with 17% a year earlier.

Early booking is a trend in the market overall, with only 33% of all holidaymakers claiming they will make their booking two months or less in advance of departure compared with 39% in 2010.

BDRC Continental director Steve Mills said: “This time last year we were asking whether the UK tourism industry could grab the opportunity that staycations offered. The answer seems to have been a resounding ‘yes’.

“The fact that the UK holiday revival has been founded on a conscious decision to stay based on positive experiences and improved service rather than an inability to afford to travel abroad gives cause for optimism that this can be sustained well into the future – but only if the sector continues to innovate and meet holidaymakers’ expectations.