Beat bank holiday blues with a staycation?

Whether they're doing their patriotic duty or just plain broke, UK staycationers are expected to contribute £7.3bn to the leisure sector this year.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
It’s just a few hours until the August Bank Holiday is upon us. For some, that means jetting off to sunnier to climes – but for most of us, it means three days of rain, punctuated by the odd attempt to fire up the barbeque. For the British tourism industry, though, that’s not such a bad thing: according to figures by Travelodge in May, 35% of Britons have decided to take their holiday in the UK this year, which will boost the industry by the not-insignificant sum of £7.3bn. Who’d have thought our passion for soggy sausages would stretch that far?

Now, most people are aware that with a recession threatening to raise its ugly head for the second time, the staycation has become something of a trend. Even the Prime Minister is at it, in Cornwall for the second time this year (although it could be that he’s just given up on going any further, given that he can’t seem to go on holiday at the moment without being called back to Westminster). And you can see why: figures from American Express show the average seven-day break in the UK costs just £433.69 (interesting – if oddly accurate) – compared with the £1,427.58 it costs to spend a week in Europe.

What’s interesting is that one of the most popular choices is camping: the Camping and Caravanning Club says it’s expecting to beat its 2009 record of 65,000 new members – in fact, its total membership has just topped 500,000 for the first time ever. That’s no surprise: the average cost for a family of four to spend a week at one of its 130 sites during high season is less than £200 – a price which has gone up by just 4% in the last year. Which might explain why the average age of its members has dropped from late 50s to late 40s. Well, either that – or glamping (that’s glamorous camping, natch) has made a serious impact on the yoof consciousness.

Of course, camping’s not for everyone (MT, for example, prefers spending the night under something more solid than canvas) – but the National Trust says its holiday cottage occupancy has also risen: bookings were up by 55% year-on-year in March, 27% in April, 10% in May and 5% in June. Less luck during July and August, though: apparently bad weather has dampened spirits somewhat. That’s reflected in our booking habits: apparently, UK tourists are leaving it later and later to book their holidays, put off by worries about money and weather.

But even if we don’t make it further than our own locales, British staycationers are still determined to take in their fair share of culture. Admissions at visitor attractions in the UK apparently rose by 3% last year, according to VisitEngland – although while visits to free attractions like the British Museum rose by 6%, the number of people prepared to fork out to visit paid-for attractions dropped by 1%.

All of this suggests that as the economy continues to toil, there are pockets, at least, that are succeeding where others aren’t. Although indications are that the real money lies in enticing foreign tourists (as MT points out in its latest issue). It’ll boost cagoule sales no end, too…

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