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ABTA – THE UK HOLIDAY MARKET CONFERENCE

Posted on 22nd November 2018 by Rebecca

Travel is booming across the world, with inbound holidays expected to grow by 3.8% percent in 2018 and domestic overnight tourism up by 6%.

We live, however, in an ever-changing world, and the travel industry needs to adapt continuously. Attending the ABTA The UK Holiday Market Conference was a very validating and insightful experience, the focus was on what is driving the trend for staycations, where the UK holiday market is growing, and how to capitalise on the growth in inbound tourism.

The event was held at The National Conference Centre & National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham on the 13th November. Well attended by the travel industry from tourism boards, tour operators, hotels, and almost any other brand or business related to travel industry inclusive of other travel professionals it was chaired by Jane Atkins, managing director at Shearings Holidays.

Opened by Giles Smith (DCMS) on Overcoming barriers to increasing UK Travel & Tourism, it offered a frank and detailed insights. On the basis that knowledge is power, we wanted to share the key features, insights and takeaways they presented this year:

Laws of Attraction: Domestic tourism spend was up by 3% to £20bn as was domestic holidays and overnight stays. This year, more people visited the key London museums than heading to the floating city that is Venice & there were more visits to heritage sites, historic estates, National Trust parks than football matches! The key to being successful is connectivity & education of products to close the knowledge gap and building packages/ itineraries.

Bound for Britain: During 2017, there were 39.2 million visitors to the UK who injected a healthy £24.5 billion into our economy (9% GDP). The key experiences that these people are looking for are: shopping, dining, pubs, parks & gardens and museums & galleries, to resonate with your audience develop specific packages to engage them. To attract more international visitors, you must understand your target market whether that be France, USA, Germany, China or Saudi Arabia.

The Hippies and the Punks: Challenging stereotypes and overcoming barriers within coach travel are specialist leisure group Shearings who urged similar businesses to keep coach travel dynamic, interesting & engaging for younger audiences by investing & introducing innovative technology as well as investing in hotel stock to set/ control standards! Try to build long term relationships with clients to build trust and reliability, whilst this does not guarantee loyalty, it can go a long way. Avoid grouping the over 50s together and remember the importance of segmenting the market when selling. Make it personal and beware of stereotypes, this market refuse to look, think, feel, behave or accept chronological age.

Experiential Locals: Customers are constantly looking for something different, this years continued trend is Experiential travel. If your destination is not a multi-sensory anthropological plunge into authentic experiences that allow visitors to live like a local then frankly it isn’t worth precious instagram space or their time. With 60% of initial trip triggers being for a purposeless meaning the outcome this means that visitors feels it is more important than the reason for the trip itself.

Easy Access: The accessibility market is a huge & growing with £14 billion spent each year on trips. However, inaccessible facilities, poor welcomes and negative attitudes are the key issues impacting accessibility tourism. Empathy and common sense are the best approaches to being inclusive and is something that needs to be addressed in the industry to deliver real change.

Domesticated Lost Generation: By 2025, it has been forecast that we will have 48.7m visitors with a spend of £34.7bn, to harness this lucrative market, destinations need to update their current product offering and develop world class bookable tourism products in line with market trend and in response to consumer demand, optimising seasonality and low shoulder seasons. Visit Britain have identified the lost generation (millennials aged between 16-34) as the next challenge and target with their domestic strategy #MyMicroGap. They tend to take low cost holidays overseas and lack understanding of Britain’s product offering, now is the ‘time to bring the lost generation home’!

Capturing China: Tapping into the Chinese market, isn’t easy and often requires a substantial investment of time, effort and money. The market represents immense opportunities of revenue growth for destinations and travel and related brands outside of China. Chinese market visits and expenditure has untapped potential for UK tourism even with only 7% holding passports, known as the ‘six wallet children’ they shouldn’t be discounted due to their influence and disposable income.

Deconstructing Journeys: Breaking down existing silos and engaging with travellers outside the traditional engagement phases, is becoming increasingly important. In a world where brand loyalty is fragile, being omnipresent, and being able to interact with customers in more than one stage of the customer journey could make the difference. With over 81% of purchasing decisions being influenced by friends’ social media posts’ it is important to keep dialogue open. The journey has changed from a liner path to a disrupted cycle where experience can start at any stage, people are no longer passive they expect a two-way dialogue in real terms meaning reviews are crucial in decision making as they become more savvy.

Social Savvy: Adoption of social media is still growing thanks to smartphones with 1 in 3 of all mobile minutes spent using social media with monthly active users of key platforms growing y-o-y and a 5% increase in web traffic being sent to mobile devices to 52% . To maximise your reach and success of a campaign you need to understand your audience & their needs, be ready for your audience to find you and ensure that the media type is well chosen and the creative is well executed.

Brexit Briefing: Is 2019 a year of uncertainty or is it the year of opportunity? The main thing to takeaway here is that progress is being made about the shape of our future relationship with the EU, going into 2019 and with continued uncertainty, businesses need to continue preparing for all eventualities. This is especially true as tourism is the UK’s third largest employer – one in three new jobs created since 2010 are in the sector. The industry needs to work hard and ensure they innovate to succeed in the next year and beyond.

These are just some of many fascinating insight to the uniques world of travel, an industry that over the last few years, months, weeks, days and hours has changed beyond all recognition; and shows every sign of continuing to innovate and and adapt to the needs of travellers and the market generally.

What is clear is that those that adapt to change will win and in order to make the most of your destinations or businesses opportunities, you must be an expert in your field and recommend the right product to the right audience.

This change will be driven by understanding the market, product offering, your core audiences marketing and platforms to reach them. Although we came out from the conference with a couple of questions on our mind, what happens beyond 2019? How do we disrupt the marketplace? How do you differentiate yourself as a destination if we’re all pointing towards the same platforms, markets and creative?

If you would like more insight into how tourism is transforming or would like to discuss your project, drop us a line and we’ll grab a cuppa or a gin!

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