Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Holidaymakers create new North-South divide

The Angel of the North celebrates the news

Whisper it quietly among the home counties and the capital but new figures from Visit England, the national tourist board, show something of a northern uprising taking place among UK holidaymakers.

According to the Great Britain Tourism Survey, Visit England’s regular research into our habits as holidaymakers, there is a very stark north-south divide developing, one where the north is proving considerably more popular than the south.

Trips to the North West (+9%), North East (+24%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (+14%) collectively increased an impressive 47% in the first quarter of this year whereas visits to the South East (-15%), South West (+9%) and London (- 11%) collectively were in negative territory - 17%.

Without wanting to inflame regional stereotypes it appears the public no longer thinks it is grim up north as those domestic visits occurred during the meat of winter – January to March – at a time when snow and ice lingered the longest and after the extended festive holiday season had ended.

Unhelpfully, Visit England does not give any reason for the increases, or for that matter, particularly in the case of London and the South East, the decreases, but we can speculate that the economic squeeze on household incomes has had some part to play with us preferring to stay at home even if it won’t have dictated our final destinations.

That said, the economic situation has not been as bad as to stop us travelling altogether as the survey also reveals that domestic overnight trips in Great Britain were up 5 per cent on last year, so we are still travelling and we are, it seems, attracted to the north.

As a caveat to that, before the north rises up to ridicule its friends in the south, figures based on just three months are far from a trend, so there is no need for the south to start soul searching just yet.

However, the boost in business during a traditionally quiet time will have been worth millions of extra pounds to northern economies providing a financial fillip to hundreds of rural and coastal businesses and communities that rely on tourism for their livelihoods.

This week marks the start of the UK summer holiday season, when the schools break up and we look forward to a week or two away. The figures for this period will make interesting reading when they finally appear but for now the north has definitely scored an early victory in the battle for our holiday spending money, to use a sporting analogy, it is one-nil up, but there is still a long way to go before it can be crowned champion.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Good Things Come In Three

Getting the thrill of the byline

Three is rumoured to be the magic number so I'm hoping my two bits of good news this week are an omen of a third on its way.

The first bit of good news was a piece I wrote about the Borneo jungle for the Independent of Sunday got short listed for this year's Bradt Travel Writing Competition - Up The Creek.

And the second was a piece I wrote for The Guardian about Scarborough's surfing scene was published too.

Travel writing is a tough life choice, so getting national recognition makes it all worth while, even after all these years of doing it I still love the feeling of seeing the byline.

I'm just weighing up whether to wait for the third good thing to come along or to take the initiative and buy a lottery ticket - then the travel writing would get REALLY interesting!

Friday, 22 July 2011

No Place Like Home...For Now

choppy times ahead...?

There really is no place like home when it comes to holidays, that's the message from Visit England, the national tourist board.

According to Visit England's latest survey overnight stays in England during the first quarter of 2011 were up 4% on the same period last year, up 5% in Great Britain.

Bizarrely, no reasons are given for the increase, which seems a massive oversight. If the tourism industry doesn't know WHY people are preferring to stay at home to holiday how can they tap into that trend?

We can speculate of course. Higher costs of living and the devalued pound mean staying at home makes economic sense but if the staycation is to become a regular holiday booking rather than a seasonal blip then the UK's tourism industry needs more information.

Has customer service significantly improved? Has the ash cloud had an impact? Are striking airlines a deterrent? Has low cost lost its shine?

If that information is not joined up - just one all encompassing report is all that's needed - then when the economic skies clear and the pound strengthens again the worry is the momentum built up since the credit crunch in 2008 will dissipate abroad again.

Britain has some great places to holiday the challenge is to keep those resorts full when the good times return and to do that the industry needs more constructive research.