Here’s why the UK travel industry still hasn’t recovered

A decline in travel frequency in the UK while living costs rocket is no coincidence. Lets look behind the trend.

We’re living in a very different world to the one we lived in before Covid-19 entered our lives, for a variety of different reasons. The aftereffects of the pandemic, cost of living crisis, and ongoing war in Ukraine have changed behaviors and attitudes to travel, as well as a host of other lifestyle choices.

As members of society change their behavior and adapt to an ever-changing, post-pandemic world, are there any new unmet needs that your brand could address? Are there any concerns around UK adults cutting spending and luxuries due to the increased cost of living that could affect the financial health of your brand?

Travel frequency has significantly reduced

This summer, we at Opinium asked adults from the UK about their attitudes to travel as they stand now, compared with before the pandemic.

So how has travel looked in the past year? Despite the news of chaos in airports and high travel demand this summer, our research shows that travel frequency has reduced significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels and has not returned to the levels seen before March 2020.

UK travel data from Opinium

Domestic travel within the UK has significantly decreased, with around six in ten adults traveling domestically in the past year, compared to eight in ten pre-pandemic. However, the decrease is especially stark for international travel, with just one in three adults traveling abroad in the past year (compared to two in three pre-pandemic). In addition, one third of Brits claim that they are now less likely to travel internationally.

This trend differs substantially by region, with over half of Londoners traveling abroad in the last year, compared with less than one in three across other regions in the UK.

Those aged 18–34 are also much more likely to have traveled internationally than their older counterparts, with nearly six in ten younger Brits traveling compared to less than three in ten aged over 35.

Reduction in travel is due to more than just Covid-19 concerns

So, why are Brits traveling less? Interestingly, Covid-19 concerns were not the most important reason for reduction in international travel this summer. Change in personal circumstance topped the reasons for traveling less this summer, with the second most popular reason being costs and finances.

This finding is not insignificant. Since the summer, the increase in the cost of living in the UK has hardly left the news and only appears to be worsening, with the cost of everyday essential items, food, energy, fuel, rent and mortgage repayments rising rapidly and impacting the majority of Brits.

With the cost of living expect to rise further still, luxuries such as traveling for leisure are likely to be something Brits significantly reduce the frequency of in order to pay for life essentials.

Written by Octavia Broughton, Research Manager.