More than one in three adults in the UK will take an overseas holiday this year. Almost one in five may do so but remained undecided as late as May, according to research for Travel Weekly.
The proportion of people who had yet to make up their minds as summer began fits with reports of a market booking later than ever, but the substantial numbers already booked give reason to believe the 2011 season should end at least in line with last year on volume.
The figures come from an exclusive study by consumer research specialist TNS, conducted in mid-May and involving more than 2,000 adults.
The results come as latest UK retail statistics show a sharp fall in sales at precisely the moment the TNS research was undertaken – with everything from furniture and fashion to wine and DIY stores closing down as popular names on the high-street fold.
Government figures show a 2.5% fall in average household income in the year to April and many people will be falling further behind with average wages rising at 1.8% this year – well below the 4.5% official rate of inflation.
However, the TNS research suggests at least as many people will holiday abroad this year as last, despite the view of a senior industry figure who told Travel Weekly: “It has never been so hard to sell holidays. Everything is late. No one is doing well. The margins are diabolical.”
TNS found 34% of respondents were committed to taking a holiday outside the UK this year, 19% were undecided, 11% were taking a UK holiday and 36% were not planning to take a holiday at all.
The research suggests that 41% of those aged between 55 and 64 are most likely to book or take an overseas holiday this summer, but one-third or above have done so in all age ranges other than 65 and over.
Those under 25 appeared the most uncertain, with 26% undecided whether to go away. No other group showed a rate of uncertainty above 19%.
People with children appeared less likely to holiday abroad than those without – with 36% of households with no child heading overseas against 31% of those with children.
However, people with children appeared more likely to take holidays in the UK (15% against 9%), with the proportion of adults not taking a holiday the same for those with or without children (36%).
Better-off households are most likely to be going away, with 50% committed to an overseas holiday and 15% undecided. By contrast, just one in six of those in unskilled work have plans to leave the UK.
Overseas holiday rates in homes with adults in white collar or skilled work reflect the average figures, with a little more than one in three planning to go abroad and close to one in five undecided.
Southeast residents most likely to go abroad
TNS found a sharp regional variation in consumer holiday intentions for the rest of the year.
According to the study, more than two out of five people (43%) in the southeast have already booked or taken a foreign holiday this year, compared with one in four in the East Midlands and Scotland.
Wales and the West Midlands also showed a lower-than-average rate committed to an overseas holiday – 30% in Wales and 31% in the West Midlands, compared with 34% for the UK as a whole.
By contrast, TNS researchers found 41% in eastern England, 38% in the northeast and 37% in London have taken or booked a holiday outside the UK.
London showed by far the highest rate of ‘holiday indecision’, with 36% undecided whether they would go abroad this year.
Consumers in the West Midlands were the second-most undecided with 24% yet to make up their minds, 22% in Wales and 20% in Scotland. Households in the East Midlands appear least likely to holiday abroad this year with just two out of five (40%) having taken a holiday, booked or considering booking.
The southwest, Scotland, and Yorkshire and Humberside also appear less likely than average to holiday overseas. Londoners appear to show the greatest propensity to go away, with 73% already having taken a holiday, booked to go abroad or considering travelling out of the UK.
The TNS survey was conducted among 2,044 UK adults between May 13 and 17.