Latest research into the UK and Ireland markets and how COVID-19 is impacting plans to visit Scotland
Explore below UK consumer research undertaken since March 2020 and feedback from our marketing teams.
In this section:
- UK and Scotland consumer sentiment tracker
- Market intelligence update
- UK segments during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Visitor Experience in Scotland between July and December 2020
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 2020 to mid-February 2021. Due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the pandemic, additional tracking will take place during March 2021 to end August 2021. From March 2021, UK level reports will be available fortnightly with a Scotland specific report being available every 6-8 weeks.
Topics this research covers:
The latest UK consumer tracker reports on survey results as at 30 April (covering week 19 – 23 April 2021).
Key highlights are:
- The national mood is slightly up 0.1 point to 6.7/10.
- Despite growing levels of optimism, the majority remain of the opinion that ‘things are going to stay the same’ (43%) or ‘the worst is still to come’ (18%). This is similar to the previous wave.
Only 45% of adults expect ‘normality’ by end of this year – up 1 point compared to last wave.
Around half of adults anticipate taking more or the same number of overnight domestic trips between now and end of the year compared to normal. This compares with approximately 30% of adults with similar intent regarding overseas trips.
Confidence that a trip will take place has increased again on the previous wave, with 44% now fairly/very confident a trip booked for this June could proceed as planned (up 6 percentage points). This level of confidence rises over the summer months to 65% in September.
Reasons for those who are not yet confident continue to be around government restrictions and fewer things to do in the spring (April – June) but surprisingly ‘concerns about catching COVID-19’ is now the top reason for lack of confidence for the summer period perhaps driven by concerns related to places being busier, overcrowding and maybe the fear of a third wave. The impact of the situation on personal finances is also starting to show with over a third (36%) mentioning it as a reason for not being confident about summer trips.
15% of the UK population intend to take a trip during spring (April – June) with 34% of UK adults planning a trip in the summer (July – September) which is stable compared to the previous wave.
63% of those intending to take a trip in spring have reached the planning and 47% the booking stages of their trips. For summer 33% have now planned with 26% having booked (an improvement on 29% and 22% respectively last wave).
The south west is by far the lead destination for UK trips with a 25% share in spring and a 26% share in summer; Scotland is now in third place for spring trip intenders (12%) and now has a narrow lead in second place for summer trips (12%).
The leading destination types for spring trips are ‘countryside or village’ (29%) or ‘traditional coastal/seaside town’ (28%). Smaller towns/cities are in third place (21%) in spring with larger cities at 13% – an improving picture since the previous wave. For summer, traditional coastal/seaside town has a 34% share and countryside or village 32%.
Consistently, the accommodation types most likely to be used on overnight trips this spring are ‘commercial rentals’ (e.g. holiday cottages) on 40%, ‘camping/caravan’ (40%), a ‘private home’ (38%) and 'hotel/motel/inn' on 37%. Summer shows a similar picture.
Own car remains the most popular transport type for spring (65%) and summer (63%). Train continues to be in second place (12% for spring) but has increased a little to 15% in summer.
At a net level, booking incentives (led by free cancellations and transferable bookings) are considered the most desirable attribute for accommodation providers to have in place. However, hygiene, cleanliness and distancing measures are additionally felt to be important drivers of accommodation choice.
The likelihood to take day trips in the short term continues to build, with almost a quarter of adults intending to take one in the next two weeks (24%). The destinations of choice are more likely to be rural or coastal in nature. Urban day trips (particularly to large cities) are still exhibiting lower levels of intent during the spring and summer periods.
The latest Scotland report looks at survey results for 10March to 10 April 2021. The highlights are:
Sentiment / Trip Confidence
Optimism has been steadily increasing and is now at its highest level since the pandemic began with 2 in 5 of UK adults stating the ‘worst has passed’. This is similar now among the Scotland population, and in the latest wave, Scots are (for the first time) slightly more optimistic than their UK counterparts with 44% believing the worst has passed.
The vaccine plays a role in this uplift in optimism – over 45s that have had the vaccine are more confident that a trip will go ahead in the next 6 months than over 45s who have not received it. They are also more likely to be intending to take a trip in spring and summer this year.
However, the majority of the population still do not expect life to return to normal until 2022 or later. September 2021 appears to be a psychological tipping point when 33% of UK residents (up from 21% in August) and 30% of Scotland residents (up from 18% in August) believe things will ‘return close to normal’. Pre-nesters display a higher level of optimism and are most likely to believe life will return close to normal by July.
1 in 7 UK (14%) and Scotland adults (13%) anticipate taking an overnight UK trip in Spring this year (April-June). More than twice that plan on taking a summer trip between July - September (35% of UK adults and 30% of Scotland adults). These figures have increased significantly since the beginning of the year showing increasing confidence; there are now less people stating that they ‘don’t intend to take a trip’.
For those intending to visit Scotland from the UK as a whole, the relative proportion of those considering Scotland in the spring has fallen since the beginning of the year from 14% to 11%, but due to the increase in those being confident about taking a UK break, the absolute volume of those considering Scotland has increased. It is the same for the summer period with 11% of Scotland intenders now stating they intend to come to Scotland (down from 13% at the beginning of the year) but more people are planning to take trips.
Overall, for spring, 55% of Scotland intenders are from outside of Scotland with the balance being made up by Scotland residents (45%) and for summer, 64% of Scotland intenders are from outside Scotland with 36% being resident in Scotland.
Scots currently remain very loyal to staying in Scotland for their next break. Of those planning to take a trip, 62% of Scotland residents plan to take their overnight break in Scotland in spring with 60% planning a summer (July-Sept) break in Scotland. Many Scotland residents are only considering Scotland as their destination for the Spring/Summer. The next most loyal audiences for choosing Scotland are those in the North of England (in particular the North West).
Profile of Scotland intenders
The profile of those now considering Scotland has changed from reports at the beginning of the year to older lifestages – most likely due to the influence of the vaccine. Older independents are now likely to be the largest audience for Scotland spring (31%) and summer trips (32%). Retirees are also over-represented amongst Scotland spring intenders relative to the population – a significant difference to January/early Feb when they were under-represented. Families rank higher in the summer months (29% of Scotland summer intenders).
Social Grades AB continue to have higher representation amongst Scotland intenders significantly so in the spring (33%) and to a lesser extent in summer (26%). Scotland spring and summer intenders are also slightly more likely than the UK population to state ‘I’m better off financially than before the pandemic’ or ‘I’ve not been affected financially’.
In terms of COVID-19 segments, ‘Less to Lose’ remains the highest represented segment amongst intenders, however, the more 'Covid Cautious' segments also have higher representation, reflecting the relatively high incidence of older life stages.
Planning and booking
The increasing levels of confidence are also being reflected in planning and booking patterns. Around 2 in 5 (42%) of Scotland spring intenders have started planning their trip with just over a third having booked it. 1 in 4 (26%) have started planning their summer trip with 1 in 5 (21%) having booked it. Generally, there is still a tendency for people to be planning further ahead than normal but booking significantly closer to the travel date (though this may be different for certain types of accommodation in specific locations with high demand).
As before, booking preference varies considerably by life stage – retirees are more likely to prefer direct bookings (and least likely to choose an online travel agent) with pre-nesters indexing highest for OTAs and homestay websites (e.g. AirBnB)
Trips to Scotland in spring are slightly more likely to be short breaks, whilst summer trips are slightly more likely to be holidays of 4+ nights. Across both time periods, the vast majority of trips are ‘holidays’, although visits to friends or family index significantly higher in spring perhaps reflecting the need to catch up with social contacts.
Scotland spring intenders are most likely to stay in a ‘countryside or village’ location on their trip, followed by ‘rural coastline’ and ‘mountains and hills’. In summer, rural coastline becomes even more popular with Scotland residents, with 42% of them choosing it as a destination type. Once again, intenders are less likely to consider cities (large or small) in the spring though larger cities become slightly more popular in the summer (21%).
The Highlands remains the most favoured destination for spring and summer intenders living within (51%) and outside Scotland (35%). The West Coast is also popular with Scotland residents in both spring and summer (25%) as are the Scottish Isles (20%). Edinburgh remains as the second most popular destination overall for spring holidays – this is very much driven by non-Scotland residents. If the balance shifts in favour of Scotland residents (as happened last year) it is likely once again that visitors to cities will suffer as a result (see section below on barriers and incentives).
Own car is the dominant transport choice once again with the majority of Scotland intenders intending to drive (74% of Scotland intenders and 86% of Scotland residents for spring trips). Train remains in second place but with a lower proportion than at the beginning of the year, with 9% choosing that method of travel for spring travel to Scotland (down from 17%) and 12% in summer. Motorhome/campervan also makes an appearance for summer trips with 5% of Scotland intenders choosing it.
Although ’hotel, motel, inn’ is the number one specific type of accommodation for spring trips, ‘non-serviced’ accommodation has a clear lead in terms of where people want to stay i.e. commercial self-catering, a private home (including homestay websites) or caravan and camping. In summer, this lead is even stronger for non-serviced accommodation. Camping and caravanning is very strong for Scotland residents during the summer months alongside commercial self-catering.
City and town Intenders – barriers and incentives
Those intending to stay in a city/town destination in Scotland this spring or summer are more likely to be younger life stages as well as belonging to higher socio-economic grades compared to those wanting to visit more rural areas (34% compared to 22%). This group is also more likely than non-city/town intenders to state ‘I’ve not been affected financially by COVID-19’.
At a UK level, city/town intenders are also more comfortable conducting everyday indoor activities than non-considerers. They are happier to eat out at a restaurant for example (60% versus 53%).
Top reasons for not staying in a city are concerns about catching COVID-19 (37%); restrictions on opportunities to socialise (31%); fewer things to do (30%) and ‘large cities tend to be too expensive’ (30%). A fifth have also stated that they would not stay in a city regardless of COVID-19.
Retirees are the most likely life stage to avoid cities because of concerns about catching COVID-19. For pre-nesters and families the leading barriers are related to restrictions on things to do/places to visit. They are also most likely to cite finances as a barrier.
Discounted accommodation is the leading incentive that would encourage a stay in a city/town amongst those that don’t currently intend to stay in one, followed closely by Covid-safe cleanliness measures and open restaurants/bars and visitor attractions. A fifth have stated that nothing would encourage them to stay in a city in the next few months.
For families, visitor attractions are a priority – beyond discounted accommodation, they need all visitor attractions to be open and they are the most likely lifestage to state ‘discounted entry to visitor attractions’
Likelihood to engage in all net activities in the next few months has increased since January/early February. However, it is still only outdoor activities that are set to generate the most visits. There is still some reluctance to visit indoor venues and activities though anticipated engagement with all types of activities and areas have increased since earlier in the year.
The latest Scotland report looks at survey results for 11 Jan to 13 Feb 2021. The highlights are:
Sentiment / trip confidence
As of mid-Feb, the proportion of UK adults stating the ‘worst has passed’ was higher than those stating ‘the worst is still to come’ for only the second time since March 2020. Scotland resident sentiment is slightly more pessimistic than sentiment in the UK overall.
Fewer than 1/3 of UK and Scotland adults are confident that an overnight UK trip would go ahead at any point this spring (March-June). Within the summer months (July-Sept) confidence rises, although it is not until August that more than ½ of UK adults are confident and not until September that a majority of Scotland residents are confident.
Even before the announcements of this week, Scotland residents were slightly less confident than UK residents as a whole that an overnight UK trip would go ahead in both the spring and summer.
Scotland residents are more likely to state that ‘government restrictions’ are behind this lack of confidence but also more likely to state ‘it is not responsible to travel in this period’ than their UK counterparts.
Effects of vaccine
Optimism and mood ratings are highest among adults of retirement age, driven by high incidence of this life stage having had their first dose of vaccine.
However, there is limited evidence that the vaccine will lead to an immediate boost in leisure behaviour. Although retirees that have had the vaccine are more positive than those that haven’t, their approach is still to be cautious and they are only slightly more likely to be intending to take a Spring or Summer trip. They are just less likely to state ‘I have concerns about catching COVID-19’ as a reason for not doing so. The PM announcements of 22February may encourage some of this group to be more confident about travelling.
Overall, 1 in 7 UK (and Scotland) residents anticipate taking an overnight UK trip this Spring, rising to 1 in 4 in the summer. These figures are already higher than trip predictions for summer 2020 showing more confidence than last year (likely to be vaccine related).
Looking at the UK population overall, we continue to see that the majority of 2021 Scotland Spring intenders (59%) live outside of Scotland (41% of Scotland residents) with 69% from outside Scotland intending a summer break here. This is a repeat of the pattern that was seen in 2020 but when it came to reality, the balance shifted in favour of Scotland residents. This is likely to be the case again if government restrictions/concerns around domestic travel persist.
Scots currently remain very loyal to staying in Scotland for their next break. The majority of Scotland resident intenders (64%) are planning on staying in Scotland in the Spring (March-June). In the summer (July-September), 61% of Scots are planning taking their next overnight trip in Scotland. The next most loyal audiences for choosing Scotland are those in the North East (25% spring / 29% summer) and Yorkshire/Humberside (16% / 12% respectively). 15% of London residents are also planning a trip to Scotland in the summer.
Profile of Scotland intenders
Families are likely to be the largest audience for Scotland spring/summer trips, with older independents making up the second largest segment, followed by pre-nesters.
Social Grades AB continue to have higher representation amongst Scotland intenders particularly in the summer making up a third.
In terms of COVID-19 segments, ‘Less to Lose’ is the highest represented segment amongst intenders, currently constrained also make up around a quarter of Scotland intenders (higher than the UK population as a whole). (slide 43). This segment will need more reassurance about success of the vaccine and decreased infection rate before travelling.
For half of Scottish spring intenders (51%), restrictions on opportunities to socialise is a reason for not travelling suggesting that when bubble sizes are increased there may be a growth in intentions. This is more of a barrier than in the UK population as a whole. It is not perceived to be as much of an issue in the summer.
Planning and booking
Around 2 in 5 (42%) of Scotland spring intenders have started planning their trip with just 1 in 4 having booked it. 1 in 7 have started planning their summer trip with 1 in 9 having booked it. Those UK residents planning an overnight trip to Scotland state they are more likely to book their trip closer to the travel date than normal perhaps due to fears over government restrictions (Scotland residents are less likely to do this with a sizeable proportion booking more consistently with their normal patterns or earlier than normal – perhaps because they have a favourite location/accommodation that they wish to secure and know demand may be high)
Booking preference varies considerably by life stage – retirees are more likely to prefer direct bookings (and least likely to choose an online travel agent) with pre-nesters indexing highest for OTAs and homestay websites (e.g. AirBnB)
Scotland spring intenders are most likely to stay in a countryside or village on their trip, followed by mountains or hills. In summer, rural coastline becomes more popular particularly with Scotland residents. Once again, intenders are less likely to choose a city or large town in the spring
The Highlands remains the most favoured destination for spring and summer intenders living within and outside Scotland. The West Coast is also popular with Scotland residents in both spring and summer. Although, Edinburgh remains as the second most popular destination overall for spring holidays – this is very much driven by non-Scotland residents. If the balance shifts in favour of Scotland residents (as happened last year) it is likely once again that visitors to cities will suffer as a result. Scotland residents planning a trip to Edinburgh are either pre-nesters (36%) or families (34%). Non-Scotland residents intending to visit Edinburgh tend to fall into older life stages
Car is king once again with the majority of Scotland intenders intending to drive (61% of Scotland intenders and 74% of Scotland residents for spring trips). However, there has been a resurgence of travel by train with 17% choosing that method of travel for Spring travel to Scotland (may be linked to Cities visitation as above).
Although ’hotel, motel, inn’ is the number one specific type of accommodation for Spring trips, ‘non-serviced’ accommodation has a clear lead in terms of where people want to stay i.e. commercial self-catering, a private home (including homestay websites) or caravan and camping. In summer, this lead is even stronger for non-serviced accommodation. However, a quarter of Scotland summer intenders have also chosen Guesthouse/B&B/Farmhouse as their preference and this shows some encouragement for the sector (although this is driven by UK residents and not Scots).
Average anticipated spend on a Scotland break by UK intenders is £668 on average with Scots spending slightly less at £618
As has been the trend, UK and Scotland residents anticipate conducting more visits to outdoor areas and engaging in more outdoor leisure/sports during Spring/Summer trips. Indoor activities and attractions will continue to struggle as intentions for these venues is still lower at the current time
The latest Scotland report looks at survey results for 12th October to 6th December 2020. Compared to the previous results of end August to beginning of October 2020, the highlights are:
- With reports of an impending vaccine in October, and the November announcement of its success and plans for immediate roll out, there was a gradual growth in optimism across the U.K., with the proportion stating the ‘worst was yet to come ‘ falling from 66% in mid-October to 39% in late November
- However, whilst the population have become more optimistic in their general outlook, they are still displaying caution when it comes to their leisure behaviour. Confidence in the ability to take near-term overnight domestic trips is low. In late-September / early-October, 27% of U.K residents were confident a trip would go ahead in December. However, as of late November the percentage has dropped to 14%, with a similar fall amongst Scottish residents. Limited confidence extends to day trips, the U.K. and Scotland population expecting to take significantly fewer day trips across the Christmas period compared to normal
- Lack of confidence in travelling from December to March is largely driven by restrictions on travel from the government - particularly among Scotland residents where restrictions tend to be introduced earlier than England. Concerns over catching COVID-19 have dropped (from 51% to 46% among U.K. residents), but are still a strong influence.
- The drop in confidence is apparent across all life stages but particularly so amongst retirees, who have consistently under-indexed on trips taken during the pandemic.
- 14% of the U.K. population plan on taking a trip between December and March (12% of Scottish residents). The South West is the most popular destination, followed by London and the North West. Scotland is the 5th most popular destination in this period, although by far the number one destination amongst Scotland residents.
- The population becomes more confident that trips would go ahead between April and June, rising to a clear majority in July to September. However only 1 in 5 are planning to take a trip in either period and a similar proportion ‘don’t know but would like to take a trip’ suggesting many will wait before making a decision.
- It’s worth noting that despite still being in the negative, intentions to take overseas longer trips have increased, suggesting that the public are increasingly starting to consider trips outside of the U.K.
- Aside from Scotland residents, residents from the North East and Northern Ireland are the most likely to be planning a trip to Scotland between December and March. Those from the south of the U.K. are noticeably less likely to be looking to travel to Scotland
Scotland Winter Intenders Profile
- Reflecting their higher levels of confidence in the ability to take trips, pre-nesters are likely to be the largest audience for Scotland winter trips, indexing higher than their representation in the general population.
- 10% of Scotland winter intenders are retirees, significantly lower than their incidence in the general population, and further reflecting the growing caution among this life stage.
- Nearly half of Scotland Winter Intenders are made up of the ‘life goes on’ and ‘less to lose’ segment, significantly higher than these segments’ incidence within the population, indicating the influence of attitude to risk in driving intention to travel.
- Scotland winter intenders are significantly more likely than the U.K. population to self-classify as either ‘better off’ financially than before the pandemic or that they’ve ‘not been affected’ suggesting that intention to take a trip is driven by financial security as well as attitude to risk.
- The combined influence of financial concerns and worries about catching COVID-19 are evidenced by the conditions intenders would like to have in place before a visit – staff wearing masks, enhanced cleaning regimes and free cancellation all stated by around two thirds of intenders.
Scotland Spring intenders – Profiling and Trip Behaviour
- Higher confidence in Spring trips going ahead means that the profile of intenders is very different to the winter. The 20% of Spring intenders are more likely to be retirees, to belong to risk-averse segments, and to require enhanced safety measures on their trip. Although this audience is likely to have strong pent-up demand, confidence remains low (albeit higher than earlier time periods) and only a small proportion have actually started planning or booking their trip. Pre-nesters are less likely to be considering Scotland in the Spring.
- Spring intenders are also more likely to be visiting with their nuclear family (partners and children as opposed to other family members).
- Coastal destinations grow in popularity in the Spring – likely driven by improvements in the weather – and the differing make-up of visitors (retirees opting for rural over urban destinations). The Highlands is particularly popular – 2 in 5 anticipating a trip there, compared to 3 in 10 in the winter. Commercial self-catering is the number one accommodation type.
Trips taken since September
- 17% of U.K. residents took an overnight trip between September and November, 14% of Scotland residents. Both percentages are significantly lower than anticipated trips in this time period (based on research conducted in August). The drop in trips taken is driven predominantly by the October to November time period when regional and national restrictions made travel more difficult – in September U.K. residents took the same proportion of trips as they intended to do so (at 11% across the U.K.)
- At 10%, trips to Scotland were lower than the anticipated 14%, a pattern that is also evident in Wales and Yorkshire. Each of these parts of the U.K. have endured relatively stricter or more varied restrictions than other parts of the U.K. which may account for the drop-off.
- The drop-off in trips taken against intentions has occurred amongst all life stages, but is particularly strong amongst retirees, 16% taking a trip compared to 20% that intended to do so.
- Scotland trip-takers are significantly more likely than intenders to classify as better off financially that before the pandemic (18% compared to 11%). This suggests that in addition to travel restrictions, financial concerns may have also had an impact on the drop-off in trips taken
- When it comes to attitudinal segments, Scotland trip-takers fall broadly in line with the U.K. ‘Less to Lose’ make up a slightly higher proportion of visitors in the September to November period.
- City or large town’ and ‘countryside or village’ were the two most popular types of destination for an overnight stay taken between September- November, broadly in line with intentions. Mountains or hills, rural coastline and traditional coastal/seaside towns each attracted significantly fewer visitors.
- Although visits to cities or large towns are consistent with intentions, trips to Edinburgh were significantly lower than intended.
- Hotel/motel/inn was the most popular choice for an overnight Scotland trip, followed by private home and commercial self-catering. Private home was the only accommodation type consistent with intentions, drops in other types driven by shifts in destination choice (e.g. fewer Edinburgh trips than intended correlating with fewer ‘hotel/motel/inn’ stays) and destination type (e.g. a fall in coastal trips correlating with a drop caravan/camping stays).
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
The Scottish Government outlined a phased approach to easing lockdown with an updated timetable - variable COVID-19 Protection Levels are now in place. The stay at home and stay local orders for Scots residents have been lifted, so day travel to other regions in Scotland is permitted for certain reasons, level dependent. The Scottish Government are encouraging anyone planning to travel to a Scottish island to take a lateral flow test before they do so. A phased reopening of travel and hospitality began on 16 April with a significant reopening of hospitality from 26 April onwards. Travel between Scotland, England, and Wales will also be allowed from 26 April (subject to any local restrictions in place).
The UK Government announced a four step plan to ease lockdown in England. From 12 April, domestic overnight stays within England and Wales with own household are allowed. The next significant easing of hospitality is planned for 17 May. There are no restrictions in place for travel into or out of Wales as long as you are travelling within the UK or wider Common Travel Area (the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man). Northern Ireland residents are being advised to stay in their local area unless for essential reasons.
International holidays are still restricted for all parts of the UK. The Government of Ireland is still advising against all non-essential travel to Great Britain and other countries and there are still domestic travel restrictions in place within Ireland.
Health and recovery of market
Governments within the UK & Ireland continue to closely monitor infection rate and number of COVID-19 cases. The 'R' range in England is between 0.7 and 1.0 (updated 16 April).
Vaccine rollout is well underway across the UK & Ireland beginning with high risk groups and cascading through population from old to young. The UK Government met the first target of offering everyone in top nine priority groups a vaccine by 12 April and continues to aim for everyone aged 18 and over to have been offered a first dose by 31 July. The Government of Ireland continues to prioritise higher risk groups.
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
Domestic travel within each home nation is now permitted to varying degrees. International holidays are still restricted for all parts of the UK and quarantine measures are in place for arrivals. Find out more with the summary of travel restrictions for the UK and Ireland travel restrictions summary.
Travel - aviation, ferries and rail
Domestic air, rail and ferry routes are in operation but limited due to the current restrictions in place. Schedules are subject to change and amendments. Pre-booking and increased hygiene measures have also been implemented.
Intermediary insights and horizon scanning
The pace at which restrictions are easing may still not allow for some booked trips to take place, so cancellations and disruptions are still likely. Travel intention and confidence for 2021 is rising, particularly for domestic breaks, but some tour operators are continuing to focus efforts on future bookings – from autumn 2021 and into 2022.
Online Travel Agent insight is highlighting search intent for future travel (increasingly up to 3 months in advance). Since the Government’s roadmap announcement, a spike in searches and bookings have been notable. Insight from last year showed a trend for very last-minute bookings (within one week of travel) which is expected to return. Bookings that are being made currently are where fully flexible cancellation policies are available.
Latest topic paper
UK segments during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the pandemic, it has become clear that the factors that previously identified key segments for Scottish tourism are being affected by the current COVID-19 situation.
As part of the joint UK Consumer Sentiment Tracking (VisitScotland, VisitEngland and Visit Wales), some new segments have been developed to help the tourism industry to understand consumer attitudes and behaviour towards travel and leisure during the current crisis.
The Visitor Experience in Scotland between July and December 2020
An online survey was conducted in January 2021 with VisitScotland customers from the UK and Ireland market, to explore their travel decisionmaking and behaviour in 2020, and holiday intention in the near future. This audience received marketing communications from VisitScotland, used the VisitScotland.com website or engaged with VisitScotland via another channel. Many are loyal and repeat visitors to Scotland. Please note due to the sampling, the findings do not represent a nationally representative sample of all holiday takers in Scotland during 2020.
Visitors’ holiday motivations
- The pandemic has had a clear impact on visitors’ reasons for choosing Scotland, and what was important to them in planning their holiday. Many visitors were looking for an escape, to get away from it all, connect with nature and the outdoors and avoid crowds. There was also a desire to go somewhere safe and familiar – to revisit somewhere they had been before, and not wanting to travel overseas because of the pandemic.
- The beautiful landscape remains Scotland's main draw – but when asked why they chose a specific area again many spoke of wanting to return to somewhere they had been before and to get off the beaten track to avoid crowds.
- Indeed, information around COVID-19 restrictions and measures taken to ensure visitors’ safety has been vital for visitors this year.
Visitors’ holiday behaviour
- Two fifths of the total sample had visited Scotland between July and Dec 2020 – 57% amongst Scotland residents. Visits peaked in September rather than in late July and August.
- The majority opted for non-serviced accommodation – with a third staying in self-catering and a quarter camping or caravanning. Most visitors from England travelled by car or campervan – very few opted for public transport.
- The most popular types of area were Scotland’s rural coastline/islands, countryside and mountains/hills. Activities tended to be outdoor related – walking and enjoying outdoors and wildlife.
- High levels of satisfaction with most aspects of the trip experience were found. Specifically, the majority were ‘very satisfied’ with the welcome of local people and the coronavirus hygiene measures in the accommodation. There was a small proportion expressed dissatisfaction, this was due to the behaviour of other tourists not respecting Covid guidelines or behaving irresponsibly.
Those who didn’t take overnight leisure holidays in Scotland between July and December 2020
- Those who didn’t take overnight leisure trips between July and December 2020 to Scotland were more likely to be in older age groups, retired and survey respondents from England.
- They were also less likely to say they had been unaffected financially by the pandemic.
- The main reasons for not visiting in 2020 were related to the pandemic – believing that travel would be irresponsible, not wanting to travel generally and due to government restrictions.
- Only a very small minority travelled somewhere else instead – generally a destination within the UK.
- The outlook for 2021 looks positive – three quarters of respondents had booked or were intending to book a holiday or short break.
- Even amongst non-visitors in 2020, two thirds were planning a holiday in Scotland for 2021.
- A third of those planning a visit, however, have low confidence the trip will take place – their main concern being government restrictions out with their control, but also the potential for a surge in cases.