Latest research into the UK and Ireland markets and how COVID-19 is impacting plans to visit Scotland
COVID-19 consumer sentiment tracker
The national tourist boards within Great Britain have commissioned tracking research to measure UK residents' holiday intentions.
The original tracking was in place from the end of May to mid-August 2020. Due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, additional tracking will take place during September 2020 to January 2021. From September, UK level reports will be available fortnightly with a Scotland specific report being available monthly.
Topics this research covers:
The latest UK consumer tracker reports on survey results as at 9 October (covering week 28 September– 2 October 2020) . Key highlights are:
Consumer Sentiment/Future trips
The rising levels of covid-19 as well as the introduction of new government restrictions in specific areas is causing a significant downturn in consumer sentiment as we continue through Autumn into Winter.
- The percentage feeling the ‘worst is still to come’: climbs again this wave to 59% (from 41% a few weeks ago)
- As might be expected, there continues to be very little expectation that ‘normality’ in our lives will be returning anytime soon. The majority of the U.K. adult population (57%) don’t believe life will return to normal before July next year. Only 5% of Wave 16 respondents expect some sort of ‘normality’ by December this year, whilst 1 in 5 expect something close to normal in 2022 or later.
- The confidence in being able to take a domestic overnight trip in March 2021 fell significantly last wave to 48% and there is further decline this wave to 40%, indicating people are anticipating disruption well into next year.
- 10% of UK respondents anticipate taking an overnight trip during October, however, uncertainty would appear to be evident as more than half of October intenders are yet to book (54%), or indeed reach the planning stage of their trip (41%).
- ‘Restrictions on travel from government’ is the leading reason for this lack of confidence followed by ‘concern about catching Covid-19’. However, close behind are other reasons which are also very reflective of the current situation; namely ‘it’s not responsible to travel in this period’, ‘restrictions on opportunities to socialise’ and ‘fewer things to do/places to visit’.
- In terms of region/nation likely to be visited between now and the end of October, the South West continues to dominate with 24% of intenders citing this as their destination, Scotland is in 3rd place with 12%. South West also leads for Winter (16%) with Scotland in 4th (13%) after the North West & London
- Countryside or village is also the leading destination for both autumn intenders (37% share). However, city or large town are the leading category for winter trips with 36%.
- Of the reassurances people are seeking in order to feel comfortable staying in a hotel, the leading categories are measures to reduce contamination (e.g. hand sanitisers and enhanced cleaning regimes) and measures designed to encourage social distancing. Offering free cancellations also continues to remain important, being the third most cited individual reason overall, with 55% of mentions.
- Both ‘Autumn intenders’ and ‘Winter intenders’ are most likely to book their accommodation directly with an accommodation provider with around a 1 in 3 share, followed closely by an online travel website.
UK Trips Taken in the Autumn
- Nearly 1 in 5 U.K. adults say they have been on a U.K. overnight trip in September, three times as high as the proportion that took an overseas trip. When asked during July/August some 20% of UK adults said they intended to take a domestic overnight trip in Autumn (defined as during September or October) so it’s likely this incidence will be exceeded when October trips are added.
- The South West of England attracted the highest proportion of holiday-takers at 20%, followed by the North West of England and Scotland (14%). Although the South West and Scotland received the first and third highest proportion of visits, the intention share was higher than share of actual trips.
- The vast majority of trip-takers have ended up staying in the destination type they initially planned, although 1 in 9 did not.
- The main reason why this small proportion of trip-takers didn’t stay at their intended destination was because they were worried there would be too many people there, closely followed by the accommodation options being too expensive. 1 in 5 (equating to around 2% of all trip-takers) weren’t confident the venues were ‘COVID-safe’.
The latest Scotland report looks at survey results for 31 August to 2October 2020. Compared to the previous results of mid July to mid August 2020, the highlights are:
Mood of the Nation
- As outlined in the UK level report last week, as at early October, the majority of the U.K. public think that the ‘worst is yet to come’ in relation to COVID-19, a sentiment that grew significantly in Mid-September. Scotland residents are marginally more likely to think the worst is yet to come.
- Increasing public pessimism is supported by a significant drop in confidence in the ability to take a U.K. holiday or short break in the next few months. A consistent 1 in 4 of U.K. and Scotland residents feel very or fairly confident a trip would go ahead between October to December, significantly lower than the 1 in 2 who were confident back in August.
- This drop in confidence is driven by ‘government restrictions’, which is now the number one reason for low confidence, compared to the fourth most popular reason in August. Scotland residents are more likely to cite ‘government restrictions’ than residents from the wider U.K. The second most likely reason is ‘concerns around catching Covid-19’.
- The tangible impact of concerns around catching COVID-19 is evidenced by the 58% of U.K. residents stating that they would not visit a ‘previously locked down’ destination until at least 2 months after restrictions are lifted.
Scotland Visitor Intentions for November to March
- Scotland is the U.K. destination of choice for 13% of the 1 in 4 Britons (19% of Scotland residents) planning a trip between November and March. Amongst Scotland residents planning a trip in this period, Scotland is the destination of choice for 50%.
- Based on intentions alone, Scotland residents would make up around 2 in 5 overnight trip-takers to Scotland in this period – with residents from London, the North East, Wales and the South East all indexing high with intentions.
- However, the research on ‘trips-taken’ to date (below) demonstrates that during the pandemic, the proportion of trip-takers from Scotland tend to make up the majority of visitors, with many ‘England and Wales-based’ intenders not following through with their intention to visit Scotland. Given the increase in restrictions around travel, this trend is likely to continue.
- Also, only 22% of these trip intenders have started planning their trip, with just 15% having booked it reinforcing low confidence levels.
- Booking directly with the provider is the most common channel, followed by an online travel agent (OTA). However there are differences by life stage – families are more likely to favour traditional travel agents, whereas pre-nesters index higher in booking with homestay websites.
- Pre-nesters and families are likely to be the largest audience for Scotland winter trips, both indexing higher than their representation in the general population. The high incidence of pre-nesters is driven by 25-34 year olds (as opposed to 16-24 year olds). Retirees, although indexing highly for trips in September, continue to be the smallest audience in line with their confidence levels.
- Scotland winter intenders favour ‘short breaks’ as well as ‘trips to the countryside or a village’ followed by ‘city or large town’ although Scotland residents who intend to take a trip tend to favour the coast.
- The Highlands remains the most favoured destination for winter intenders living within and outside Scotland – although reporting for July-Sept trips also demonstrates that the proportion who eventually end up going there is lower than intended. This may be driven by availability/cost of accommodation, although equally could be a result of the high ‘saliency’ of the Highlands as a destination. The Edinburgh area continues to be the second most popular area overall preferred more amongst intenders from outside of Scotland than amongst Scotland residents.
- ‘Hotel/Motel/Inn’ is the number one choice for accommodation for winter intenders. Other accommodation options are also consistent with August projections with the exception of ‘commercial self-catering’ which has a lower incidence of intention. However, ‘commercial self-catering’ has increased in preference through September and October, as concerns around COVID-19 have also risen. With that in mind, the incidence of this type of ‘self-contained’ accommodation may be higher when bookings are actually made.
- October half term day trips are also victim to falling confidence levels - although 13% of Scotland residents intend to take one (30% of Scotland’s families), they anticipate taking fewer day-trips than normal.
Trips taken between July-September
- As of early October, 30% of U.K. residents had taken an overnight short break or holiday in the U.K. since July, 24% of Scotland residents. 3 in 5 U.K. trips were for a holiday, the majority of the remainder to visit friends or relatives (VFR). Overnight stays in Scotland were predominantly for a ‘holiday’ – 77% compared to 63% of all U.K. trips.
- The South West of England attracted the highest proportion of holiday trips from July to September (18%), followed by the North West of England (15% of holiday trips) and Scotland (10% of all trips, 12% of holiday trips).
- Nearly 8 in 10 (77%) of all Scotland residents that have taken an overnight trip since July did so in Scotland, rising to 86% of Scotland residents that took a holiday. Both figures represent a significant rise on intentions, perhaps reflecting the success of the VisitScotland’s ‘Only in Scotland’ campaign.
- Conversely, only 4% of trip intenders from outside of Scotland visited Scotland on their trip, lower than the 10% that intended to do so. As a consequence, Scotland residents made up 60% of all overnight trip takers during this period.
- Notably, the life stage with the highest representation for Scotland holidays from July to September was ‘pre-nesters’ (in particular 25-34 year olds) indexing significantly higher than amongst the wider U.K. population. This will in part be driven by the higher incidence of pre-nesters in the Scotland population than the wider U.K. population – Scotland residents dominating the visitor profile. It’s worth noting that retirees were the largest age group for trips taken in September, highlighting there is still scope to generate some visits from this audience.
- ‘City or large town’ and ‘countryside or village’ were the two most popular types of destination for an overnight stay between July and September, followed by mountains or hills and traditional coastal/seaside towns.
- The Highlands, the Glasgow area, Edinburgh area and the West Coast were the three most popular areas. Of the 35% that stated they visited a ‘city or large town’, two thirds visited the Edinburgh and Glasgow areas.
- The vast majority of Scotland trip-takers were able to stay in the destination they had originally planned. Of the 11% that didn’t, worries about ‘they’d be too many people there’ was the main reason, followed by the expense of accommodation options. Notably, 1 in 5 (2% of all trip-takers) weren’t confident the venue was Covid safe.
- Hotel/motel/inn was the most popular choice for an overnight Scotland holiday, followed by caravan/camping and commercial self-catering. Unsurprisingly, private home indexed higher for all trips than holiday trips, driven by trips with a VFR purpose.
The latest Scotland report looks at survey results for 10 July to 14 August 2020. Compared to the previous results of mid June to mid July 2020, the highlights are:
Trips taken in July and August
- As at mid August, 16% of UK residents had taken an overnight short break or holiday in the UK, 17% of Scotland residents.
- 11% of UK residents that took a domestic holiday took their holiday in Scotland. 66% of Scotland holiday-takers live in Scotland, 34% outside Scotland.
- Four in five (78%) of Scotland residents that took a UK holiday or short break, took it in Scotland.
- Conversely, only 3% of trip intenders from outside of Scotland visited Scotland on their trip, lower than the 8% that intended to do so.
- ‘Countryside or village’ was the most popular destination type for Scotland holiday-makers. Stays in ‘mountains or hills’ were significantly lower than predicted (15% compared to 40%), as were stays in the Highlands (which remain the number one choice). This drop may be driven by availability of accommodation.
- Caravan/camping was the number one choice of accommodation for Scotland holiday stays in July and August. Hotel/motel/inn was the next most popular choice for a holiday stay, followed by private home and commercial self-catering. Both ‘a private home’ and ‘commercial self-catering’ indexed lower than intentions, commercial self-catering especially so. The drop-off in commercial self-catering against intentions could be driven by destination choice or limited availability in the event of high demand.
General sentiment in the UK short break and holiday market and intentions for Autumn / Winter
- At the time of the survey (mid-July to mid-August), Scotland residents feel more comfortable conducting ‘everyday activities’ than in mid-June to mid-July. There has been a rise in comfort towards all activities in particular with ‘eating at a restaurant’ (rising from 29% comfortable to 44%).
- Despite growing comfort overall, confidence in the ability to take UK short breaks or holidays in September has not increased and confidence in taking trips from October onwards has declined. This increasing pessimism towards winter trips may be a reflection of ‘flattening’ optimism or may be driven by fears of a second wave of COVID-19 as local lockdowns increase in number – indeed, ‘concerns about catching COVID-19’ is the dominant reason for lack of confidence in taking a trip.
- Despite caution towards taking a domestic trip, around one in five UK residents plan on taking an overnight short break or holiday this autumn (September to October) and one in four this winter.
- Notably, a large proportion of Scotland autumn and winter intenders have not yet booked their trip, higher amongst non-Scotland residents.
- Scotland is the number two destination for a holiday or short break in both the autumn and the winter months, and by far the number one destination for Scotland residents.
- There is a significantly different profile in Scotland intenders in September compared to other periods. Families have relatively low representation, whilst older independents and retirees have the highest representation.
Trip behaviour and booking
- Consistent with previous reporting, the Highlands remains by far the most favoured destination for autumn intenders living within and outside Scotland. The Edinburgh area continues to be the second most popular area.
- Scotland autumn intenders are most likely to visit ‘countryside or a village’ on their trips, followed by ‘city or large town’ and ‘mountains or hills’. Scotland residents broadly share the same preferences as Scotland intenders from elsewhere in the UK, although are less likely to stay in a city or large town.
- ‘Hotel / motel / inn’ is the number one choice for accommodation amongst both autumn and winter intenders, followed by ‘commercial self-catering’ and ‘a private home’. Autumn intenders are most likely to book their accommodation in Scotland directly with the provider reflecting the older demographic which favours this channel.
- Across both autumn and winter trips, ‘own car’ is by far the leading mode of transport followed by train and plane. Scotland resident intenders are significantly more likely to use their own car, and in the autumn months less likely to use train or plane, the former likely a reflection of lower intention to visit Scotland’s cities or large towns.
The latest Scotland report looks at survey results for 15 June to 10 July 2020. Compared to the previous results of mid May to mid-June 2020, the highlights are:
- In line with general confidence measures, 24% of UK residents and 20% of Scotland residents now intend to take a UK short break or holiday this summer, a significant rise on the research conducted in mid-May to mid-June.
- Scotland residents are less confident and more cautious than UK residents on the whole, particularly in relation to indoor activities such as going to a restaurant. They are more likely to cite government restrictions and reasons relating to restrictions (e.g. fewer things to do) as the main reason for this. Scots may be more cautious as some Scottish restrictions have been lifted later than for England.
- Amongst UK residents planning a domestic holiday this summer, Scotland remains the number two destination, behind the South West of England. The vast majority of Scotland residents considering Scotland are not thinking of going elsewhere.
- Outside of Scotland, residents of London show the highest propensity to visit Scotland for a short break or holiday this summer, notable given the population density.
- Scotland intenders are planning to take a trip in Scotland for a range of holiday types, but ‘countryside or village’ and ‘mountains or hills’ are the continue to be the top two destination types, both increasing significantly in preference since mid-May to mid-June. Families favour seaside destinations, retirees rural destinations.
- Hotel / motel / inn’, ‘commercial self-catering’ and ‘caravan/camping’ generate near-equal levels of visits to Scotland this summer, followed by ‘a private home’. The preference for ‘commercial self-catering’ has increased significantly since mid-May to mid-June, reflecting restrictions on ‘self-catering’ accommodation being lifted earlier than other holiday accommodation.
- ‘Own car’ is the preferred travel mode for a trip to Scotland, although ‘train’ and ‘plane’ is the mode of choice for around 1 in 10, driven by those living outside of Scotland.
This report for Scotland looks at survey results for the period 18 May to 12 June 2020. The commentary below refers to this time frame.
- 21% of U.K. residents are likely to go on a summer U.K. break this year, compared to 17% of Scotland residents. Notably Scotland and Wales residents are the least likely to be intending to go on a summer trip this year.
- Amongst U.K. residents planning a domestic holiday this summer Scotland is the number two destination, behind the South West of England. Amongst Scotland residents, Scotland is the number one destination followed by the South West of England.
- C1C2 families and AB families index the most heavily above the population average for summer trips to Scotland. AB pre-nesters also index higher, as do older independent ABs (despite older independents indexing lower overall).
- For Scotland summer intenders from the U.K., the Highlands and Edinburgh are the two most popular areas. For Scotland residents, the Highlands is also the most popular, although significantly more so than amongst the wider U.K. public. Scotland residents are less likely to take a holiday in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and more likely to do so on the West coast of Scotland.
- Scotland intenders are planning to come to Scotland for a range of holiday types, but ‘rural coastline’, ‘countryside or village’ and ‘mountains or hills’ are the top three destination types. Families favour seaside and rural destinations, whereas pre-nesters index higher in cities and towns.
- Hotel/motel/inn’ and ‘caravan/camping’ generate near-equal levels of visits to Scotland this summer, followed by ‘commercial self-catering’ and ‘a private home’.
- Both summer and winter Scotland intenders are more likely to book their trip directly with an accommodation provider than any other single booking channel, although when combined together ‘third-party channels’ make up a higher proportion of bookings than direct bookings alone.
Market intelligence update
The latest round up of UK and Ireland market intelligence from our VisitScotland marketing teams.
Brief market update
An increase in infection rate and number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks has led to new restrictions implemented in the UK & Ireland to help control the spread of the virus. These vary across country and region but include mandatory closing times for hospitality businesses and restrictions on household mixing. The UK Government has introduced tiered Covid alert levels to manage local outbreaks.
A UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark, ‘We're Good to Go’ has been developed to provide reassurance for visitors, communities and tourism businesses.
Health and recovery of market
Governments within the UK & Ireland continue to closely monitor infection rate and number of COVID-19 cases. The ‘R’ number in the UK is currently between 1.3-1.5 (updated 16 October). As result of recent increases to the infection rate, further restrictions have been imposed.
Face coverings remain mandatory on public transport and in shops. The NHS Test & Protect service within the UK allows anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms to be tested and contact tracing to be carried out.
Quarantine and other travel restrictions
Anyone arriving from within The Common Travel Area (CTA), including UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and have spent longer than 14 days in the CTA (or another exempt country) immediately before arrival into Scotland, do not need to self-isolate.
Travel is restricted to essential travel only in some regions of the UK & Ireland, where increased infection rates are present.
Travel - aviation, ferries and rail
Domestic routes have re-commenced across UK airline carriers (Loganair, Ryanair, easyJet, BA, Aer Lingus Regional) with increased hygiene measures. Airline schedules remain subject to change and amendments. Ferry and Rail operations are in operation with increased hygiene measures and limited capacities.
Intermediary insights and horizon scanning
New restrictions associated with increased infection rates are causing travel disruptions and trip cancellations. Research indicates a significant drop in consumer confidence in the ability to take a UK holiday or short break in the next few months so therefore travel intention is now being focused on next year, with tour operators focusing efforts on future bookings (both 2021 & 2022). Online Travel Agent (OTA) insight is showing lead times are much shorter with people booking very last minute (within one week) of travel.
Social listening update
Our insights team uses 'social listening' as a tool for research. Put simply, it's about gathering data on specific topics from online conversations, to allow us to capture first-hand insights from visitors and potential visitors to Scotland.
We use a social listening tool, Brandwatch, to identify, capture and categorise high volumes of information.
Between 17 and 30 August 2020, we identified around 11,000 conversations related to holiday intention from the UK market. General chatter about holiday intentions decreased by 8% compared to the previous period. This might be influenced by the end of the summer holiday season as people prepare for their return to school/work.
The main conversations are about users planning for the bank holiday weekend and booking holidays in the UK as well as abroad. There are concerns about the current risks of going on holidays in terms of health, finances and potentially having to quarantine on arrival to the destination and on return to the UK.
Online sentiment about holiday intention is neutral to positive. Positive sentiment continues to be driven by users looking forward to their holidays; planning holidays for 2021 and sharing their experiences on recent holidays.
Negative chatter didn't focus on domestic breaks but concerns around holidays abroad and having to quarantine on return; as well as disappointment over missing a summer holiday. Complaints about poor customer service experiences from airlines and travel agencies continue.
Most of online conversations take place on Twitter (73%) where users write about their excitement for booking holidays and discuss whether going on holiday is necessary in the current situation. Trending topics on this channel are: #staycation, #roadtrip and #bankholidayweekend. 18% of chat takes place on forums where users look for advice about refunds and cancelations, as well as to where to book a holiday for 2021. The top forum is tripadvisor.com followed by mumsnet.com.
Scotland seems to be an appealing alterative to a holiday abroad. This could be due to the fact that UK holidaymakers don’t need to quarantine on return. People are excited to explore places in their home country and venture further afield for a self-catered holiday, city break, road trip or camping trip. “So we were meant to be going on holiday to France today...off to Scotland we go!”
Scotland’s wide-open spaces are attractive to tourists and people are excited to take a trip to Scotland and get away from home after the confinements of lockdown.
I should be in Tenerife right now... but instead we’re going to South Uist to see some of the Scottish Islands with our bikes and our walking boots packed. Hopefully the weather behaves.
Between 13 and 19 July there were over 5,700 relevant conversations about holiday intention in the UK. This is a 4% increase compared to the previous seven days.
The main conversations topics about holidays in the UK are people planning holidays abroad in August, September and October; as well as planning holidays in the UK in the short term.
Some users express their concerns over going on holiday as they find this risky from a health and financial point of view, thinking it’s too soon to travel given COVID-19.
Online sentiment about holiday intention is neutral. Positive conversations are driven by excitement about booking holidays for late summer this year and planning ahead for 2021. Negative chatter is driven by user’s concerns over re-opening tourism, the effectiveness of physical distancing, disappointment over cancelled holidays and poor customer service experiences from airlines and travel agencies.
Staycation and road trips are the most popular topic related to holidays in the UK, for both UK in general and staycation in Scotland. This shows that UK holidaymakers are booking holidays at home this summer.
Following the re-opening of tourism industry in Scotland on 15July, users express their excitement and relief to be able to explore their local areas and travel around Scotland.
A word about 'social listening'
Our Insight team uses ‘social listening’ as a tool for research. Put simply, it’s about gathering data on specific topics from online conversations, to allow us to capture first-hand insights from visitors and potential visitors to Scotland.
We use a social listening tool, Brandwatch, to identify, capture and categorise high volumes of information. We then work with a skilled team of analysis to distil the relevant information by analysing thousands of online conversations from different media sources and identifying topic themes, sentiments and trends.
The tool does not monitor all social media conversations and insights should therefore be understood as an indication of trending topics. Facebook data is not included due to its private nature and, a part of this analysis used location filters to identify relevant conversation and these do not apply to all channels and mentions.
What's trending on social about holiday intentions in May 2020
Between 1 and 25 May, we gathered over 21,000 online conversations about holiday intentions. These included feelings about travelling as well as frustrations, questions and concerns, particularly around issues with booking cancellations.
Although there is a common or emerging trend for people to postpone holiday plans for next year, due to current uncertainty around the pandemic situation, people are expressing a clear desire to travel in the future as soon as it’s possible.
What do people think will happen with holidays this year? I keep reading conflicting advice. We have flights booked to the USA in August, my OH thinks it’s more likely to happen than not, but I thought it would be out of the question. Do people think international holidays will go ahead this year?
Recurring themes in our social listening data include UK holidaymakers discussing their discomfort or concern about booked holidays and their attempts to secure refunds from providers (including airlines, hotels, tour operators and package providers). People are unsure if they’ll be able to go ahead with a planned trip and also when it will be safe to travel.
Exploring conversation volumes
Our social listening reveals that while general conversations about holiday intentions were consistent during the month of May, there is a clear relationship between volumes of conversation and the development of a national response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
As the graph below shows, conversations suddenly increase on days following official Government announcements. For example, on the day following the UK Prime Minister’s 10 May announcement, conversations increase by 30% and, similarly, we see an increase of 14% on 21 May and 12% on 22 May, following the Scottish Government’s publication of a route map for Scotland. This tells us that people are very reactive to developments in the current situation and, although the focus for UK holidaymakers at the moment is to stay close to home and travel locally, this is likely to change in line with new guidance. As the situation normalises, we expect more people to look to travel further within the UK.
I guess there is no better time to start exploring the UK” #Blackpool #staycation #frommybeach
In addition to conversations about holiday cancellations, refund issues and concerns over future travel plans, conversations about day trips begin to trend during May, as lockdown restrictions started easing in the UK. As soon as going outside for unlimited exercise and meeting other households in open spaces was allowed, people begin to discuss planning a day trip to the beach, for example.
However, our social listening data also reveals confusion – even anguish – over lockdown measures and the ability of UK residents to take day trips while still following physical distancing rules. In addition, we noted concerns over incoming quarantine measures for those returning to the UK and also for entering other countries, such as France and Spain, if holidays there go ahead later in the summer. Some holidaymakers wonder whether they should cancel holiday plans for upcoming months.
Conversations about ‘staycations’, ‘holidays at home’ and ‘road trips’ were trending topics on social media during May, driving high volumes throughout the month and revealing people’s plans to holiday in the UK in the near future. In fact #Covid19 and #coronavirus hashtags are used consistently in holiday intention conversations, illustrating that the pandemic is front of mind for UK holiday makers and that they are likely to make and change plans as the situation develops.
Companies associated with tourism and travel were also trending topics during May, with airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair consistently mentioned, as would-be travellers look for advice on flight status and cancellations. Many also share their experiences of cancelling planned trips and securing refunds for cancelled flights. In addition, mentions of high-profile UK political figures, including Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson, were also trending in May due to ongoing lockdown debriefs and announcements.
As soon as we can, we are booking a holiday.
As indicated in the graph above, online sentiment about holiday intentions expressed between 1 and 25May is divided equally between positive and negative comments with a further 40% of comments being neutral. Negative sentiment is driven by conversations relating to experiences of poor customer service, booking cancellations and the general inability to travel. Positive sentiment, however, is mainly driven by a desire to travel and thinking ahead to a future holiday.
Although negative and positive sentiments remain constant over May, there is a slight increase in negative sentiments on the days immediately following the UK Prime Minister’s 10 May announcement regarding easing restrictions on outdoor exercise and advising people unable to work from home to return to the workplace. This announcement generated an increased in both negative and neutral conversations, suggesting people found the new guidelines confusing.
When we explore ‘booking a holiday’ as a theme, we discover this generates both negative and positive conversations. Negative conversations focus on people being unable to travel, having to cancel plans, having difficulties communicating with holiday providers and facing issues obtaining refunds. Positive comments, on the other hand, focus on planning future trips and a desire to travel as soon as possible. Additionally, they reveal people remembering previous holidays and discussing destinations once they are able to travel again.
It’s unusual to observe such an equal split between positive and negative sentiment and these online conversations reveal that the current situation is affecting people in different ways with some struggling to cancel planned holidays and others looking ahead to the easing of restrictions and the opportunity of travelling again.
Where are conversations taking place?
Our social listening shows that conversation themes are similar across different channels as the current situation affects the wider population and not just a specific segment. The majority of conversations (71%) take place on Twitter where users are talking about holiday intentions and debating the political situation. Twitter is also the preferred channel for contacting business (such as airlines and hotels) in connection with bookings. There is certainly more angry sentiment expressed on this channel whereas forums (23%) show people engaging in longer conversations as they look for help and advice and share experiences. During May, Mumsnet was the most popular forum for this topic.
UK holidaymakers also use forums to pose questions about cancelled trips and travelling abroad in the near future, particularly to destinations where lockdown measures are unknown or unclear. And forums are also popular for people looking for advice on creating a fun staycation at home during lockdown or travelling safely within the UK.
Zooming in on Instagram
We identified around 1,000 conversations relating to holiday intentions and the UK and, as shown in the graph below, travel conversations spike after the Prime Minister’s statement of 10May and again after Scotland’s announcement on easing lockdown restrictions of 21 May. This indicates a clear desire to travel with people turning to social media to express excitement as restrictions ease.
The main Instagram conversations revolve around staying at home, taking part in virtual tours of holiday destinations and reminiscing about past holiday. Nature, landscapes and outdoor holidays all trended during May with people posting about adventures, hiking, road trips and beaches. Natural locations are a clear favourite with frequent mentions of Scotland and Scottish scenery including Skye, the Highlands and Scottish lochs.
In contrast to wider sentiment around holiday intention (discussed under What does the ‘sentiment barometer’ tell us?) sentiment on Instagram is mainly positive – this reflects the nature of the channel and the type of content it encourages. As a result, attitudes to holiday intentions are both optimistic and nostalgic, with users sharing pictures of past holidays, talking about longing to travel again and discussing their surroundings during lockdown.
During the period of social listening analysis, we couldn’t travel abroad due to global lockdown restrictions and this was causing significant disruption to UK holidaymakers and tourism businesses alike. Both want to know when their planned activity can resume and, even with the easing of some restrictions and plans around tourism opening up again in July, there’s still a long way to go before the situation fully resolves.
Frustrations over re-booking holidays and obtaining refunds for cancelled flights are being widely shared on social media. However, despite disappointment over cancelled holiday plans for summer 2020 and fears around what the future holds, there is a clear appetite to find out as much as possible about when holiday planning can start again.
From our analysis of online conversations, it’s clear that UK holidaymakers are looking forward to travelling again as soon as the situation allows; in the meantime, the prospects of day trips and staycations are at the forefront of UK holidaymakers’ minds.
Travelling to UK locations is likely to be what people will feel most comfortable with and, from social media posts, we can see that people’s eyes and minds are opening up to what is available to see and do on their own doorsteps.