With its vibrant Christmas markets, abundant shopping opportunities and festive pubs aplenty, the UK has always been a popular choice for a holiday getaway. With only six weeks to go until the big day the Christmas countdown is officially on. But while last year’s Covid restrictions have come to an end there’s now the cost of living crisis to consider. Sojern, a leading provider of digital marketing solutions for travel, shares travel trends and insights for the holiday season in the UK. How is inflation impacting travellers this year end?

Holiday flight bookings to the UK are up across the board

Despite uncertainty around the cost of living crisis, travel appears to remain a priority as December bookings to the UK are up across the board. Although bookings are slowing down for domestic and international flights, total December bookings are up year-on-year since much of the bookings were made months ago. International flights (outside Europe) to the UK are up 105% YOY, European flights up 73% YOY and domestic flights up 38% YOY.*

As of end-October the top five origin countries travelling to the UK this Christmas are the United States comprising 32.12% of total flight bookings, perhaps taking advantage of the dollar rising against the EuroSpain (8%), France (7%) Italy (7%) and Germany (7%)Domestic travellers within the United Kingdom (5%) plus travellers from Australia (5%), Singapore (3%), Portugal (3%) and Greece (1%) make up the remainder of the top ten. Looking at lead times over half of bookings (51%) to the UK have been made over three months in advance and over two thirds (38%) made between two to three months, likely due to consumers seeking to secure favourable rates on flights. The majority of travellers are booking longer trips to the UK of 8-14 days (37%), with nearly a third (29%) staying up to a week and one fifth (20%) over a fortnight.

Outbound holiday bookings are up 50% compared to same time last year

Looking at outbound weekly Christmas travel bookings in 2022 vs 2021 we see a 50% increase* compared to the same time last year, indicating that despite the cost of living crisis those who can are still prioritising a winter getaway. As of October 202235% of all booked Christmas trips are for travel within Europe (+31%), 17% within Middle East and Africa (+39%), 17% within US & Canada (+32%), 8% South Asia (+29%), 7% Latin America and Caribbean (+46%), 6% Oceania (+495%), 6% Southeast Asia (+325%) and 3% East Asia (+339%). APAC and Oceania all had stronger travel restrictions in place this time last year which could be why we are seeing a larger uptick in bookings from UK travellers to these far flung destinations.

The top searched hotel destinations by UK travellers in 2022 are Dubai (9%) which could in part be due to travellers visiting the Middle East region during the FIFA World Cup in December. The remainder of the top five is made up Canary Islands – Spain (6%), a longtime winter destination thanks to its year round sunshine, Greater London – United Kingdom (4%), followed by the South West (4%) and South East of the United Kingdom (3%), demonstrating strong domestic travel intent to the capital and other UK cities for a break. Sunnier climes including Phuket – Thailand (3%), Orlando – Florida and Abi Dhabi – United Arab Emirates (2%) also appear in the top 10 providing an opportunity for Brits to soak up some winter sun.

“While the impact of the cost-of-living crisis is perhaps starting to be felt, our data shows travellers aren’t willing to sacrifice travel this Christmas season,” said Sam Eads, Senior Sales Director at Sojern. “Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and Tourist Boards should take note of those regions showing the most interest from inbound international travellers, and use intent data to reach these potential travellers with messaging from your particular destination. With 2022 holiday bookings up on 2021 levels overall we’ll be watching closely to see if demand for ‘revenge travel’ continues well into 2023 or starts to falter.”