The Travel Matters conference heard sober assessments of the outlook for the UK economy and outbound travel market.

Andrew Hawkins chairman of research firm ComRes said fears of rising interest rates, a deteriorating economy and government cuts were sapping consumer confidence.

“Half the population believe the UK is on course for a double dip recession,” he said, “46% are cutting back spending in anticipation of a rise in interest rates and 44% think there will be no improvement in the UK economy.”

Hawkins revealed a ComRes study suggesting more than 50% of UK adults in every age range would be prepared to sacrifice one foreign holiday a year in the interests of the environment. However, younger adults were less inclined to lose a holiday despite being more ready to vote for a party with environmental policies.

He also reported a poll finding that transport policy “is way down the list of voters’ concerns”. Alex Kyriakidis, global managing director of tourism, hospitality and leisure at consultancy firm Deloitte, said: “The global economy is looking slightly better than a year ago.”

However, he said: “Household income is heading south. People are cutting back on holidays and outbound travel is hurting. We have had three consecutive years of reduced departures.”