Britpacking, anyone?

New data released in July by the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of Brits going abroad for their holidays fell 15 per cent in 2009, compared with 2008 – the largest drop since the 1970s.

While this is not great news for the overseas travel market, it signals good news for the UK tourism industry.

Currently tourism in the UK accounts for around 8.2 per cent of GDP, so any significant boost could have a real impact on the economy.

Domestic tourism has grown rapidly over the last few years, with the emergence of the ‘Staycation.’  This trend, which peaked at the heart of the recession, saw more of us choosing to stay at home for their holidays, discovering what their own country has to offer, rather than travel abroad.

Some might we are becoming more European in that, on the ‘mainland’  it has never been unusual for residents to favour their own country for a relaxing break, over and above overseas alternatives.

Such a significant increase in people choosing home over away, highlighted in these latest figures, presents a real opportunity for tourism and hospitality businesses.

Many have acted relatively quickly, responding to the economic climate, recent airline strikes, and ash cloud chaos fears, by promoting the benefits of holidaying at home.

Continued innovation is, however, key. Identifying what people want, in terms, of facilities and services is not enough. Appealing to people’s emotions is vital.

Good value deals are always at the top of the traveller’s check-list. Once this has been ticked off, a number of other variables come into play. Accessibility, heritage, interests and links to family and friends tend to define the other deciding factors, when it comes to choosing a holiday destination. With this in mind, retailers must tailor and market their products effectively to capture these new consumers.

With a beautiful coastline, unrivalled countryside, and vibrant cities, the UK has a lot to offer. As domestic tourism grows and becomes a mainstay of our economy, it will be interesting to see how the market develops and innovates. In years to come, will we see the emergence of classic travel packages in the UK that currently dominate the overseas market? I wait with keen interest, for the emergence of ‘Britpacking,’ Club 18-30, Inter-railing, All-inclusive and Tailor-made deals.