by Clare Murphy
For more than two years, the uncertainty around Brexit has led to fears about how the referendum will impact the travel habits of the British. But even as many details still need to be worked out, one thing is starting to become clear: Brits will continue to holiday where they like. Tracy Pollitt, a representative of HR hotels was quoted in a recent article as saying of the popular Costa Blanca city of Benidorm, “Nobody will stop the Brits coming to Benidorm, they’ve been coming here for so many years.” That appears to be the case, as recent data shows Spain is once again the top choice for Britons’ winter getaways.
According to a travelweekly.com article, research from travel company On the Beach shows the Canary Islands, resorts across mainland Spain, and the Balearics as the hottest destination for Brits this coming winter, based on booking data. Other popular hotspots include Malta, Morocco, Egypt, and Cyprus.
The same research showed an emergence in the “fastest growing destination” category of two areas that were once favorites but have fallen off due to safety concerns: Turkey and Tunisia. This shows that the Brits are keen to return to their favorite destinations and spend their travel money in areas that have seen a downturn in recent years. In a similar fashion, travel to Zimbabwe by the British has doubled after a long period of decline caused by political uncertainty and safety concerns.
Research from the Office for National Statistics, while less current, backs up the fact that the Brits are continuing to travel in droves. The latest release of their “travel trends” data reports that “there were 72.8 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2017, the highest figure recorded by the International Passenger Survey (IPS). There were 46.6 million holiday visits abroad by UK residents, 4% more than in 2016 and accounting for almost two-thirds (64%) of visits. By comparison, there were 29.1 million holiday visits abroad in 1997.”
In addition to the usual warm weather climates in the winter, some more unusual trends have surfaced of late. One is a trend toward “dark tourism.” In research by kiwi.com, flight searches for dark tourism has tripled in the last two years, including searches for nuclear reaction site Chernobyl increasing by over 1000%. Interest in Nazi concentration camp site Auschwitz and voodoo hotspots New Orleans and Benin are also on the rise. Whether the interest is historical, morbid, or just an interest in paths less traveled is undecided, but the trend is certainly growing.
Another trend that travel operators are paying close attention to is the growing demand for solo travel, particularly for female travelers of all ages. According to a survey from ABTA, one in nine travelers reported that they took a holiday on their own in the previous 12 months – double the number compared to six years previous. An in-depth article from the Telegraph reported that many companies are encouraging this burgeoning group by forgoing the once ubiquitous “single supplement” that penalized single travelers by charging more for single rooms. Many single travelers are choosing group tours where they know they’ll be able to go out on their own when the want, while also joining the group when they desire.
All of these trends confirm that Brits will more than likely not be sticking close to home, even as Brexit is finalized. For travel companies making arrangements for these travelers, the hassle of dealing with foreign currencies is easily managed by a payment solution from WEX. Our virtual payments solution allows travel companies to pay suppliers in over 150 currencies worldwide, avoiding exchange rate markups and cross-currency fees. You can also avoid exchange rate fluctuation risk by settling your payment in the same currency as the supplier is paid for up to 21 currencies globally.
The UK travel market continues to look strong. So simplify your supplier payments process with our global virtual payments solution. The team of global currency experts at WEX will identify and customize the best currency strategies for your business, minimizing FX markups and cross-currency fees.