The recent floods which affected large parts of southern England have reignited the question over the human impact on climate change. The Met Office announced rainfall of 486.6mm from 1st December to 19th February, making it the wettest winter since records began in 1910. But spring resumed on schedule – somewhat uncannily – with early March recording temperatures as high as 18˚C. Brighton_beach_2004 According to the Met Office the trend of extreme weather in the UK is going to continue. It recently announced that we could expect to see milder and wetter winters, like the one just past, as well as hotter and drier summers. This is a concern for politicians, environmentalists, and home owners, but what might this mean for Britain’s tourist industry? Due to improved summer weather, can we expect to find more sun-seekers staying in the UK, rather than going to places like the Mediterranean? Is it possible we could see the Jurassic Coast become the new Costa del Sol? The improved summer weather conditions may in fact be a blessing (if one that sits uneasily on the nation’s conscience). Recently there has been an odd rise in the number of travel portmanteaus: the ‘staycation’ has seen an emergence, as well as subcategories like ‘glamping’ and the ‘Poshtel’, both of which have been fashioned in an apparent attempt to change the perception of domestic holidays. With finances stretched and the need for affordable leisure at a premium, domestic trips have been on the rise for a number of years, and there is certainly no lack of options. But with the economy now possibly in recovery and consumer confidence boosted, the British travel industry may need to up its game if it wants to prevent families and individuals from renewing their love affairs with France and Spain. In 2013, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) found that 90 per cent of British tourists had visited Spain once before, and 50 per cent had been ten times before. Consumers seek value and familiarity, hence Spain’s enduring popularity, where the food, culture and weather are all much enjoyed. If Britain’s tourist industry wants to compete it needs to find a balance between exoticism and familiarity, and of course, to make use of better sunshine levels. Recent research on the trends of tourist behaviour conducted by Visit England found a number of changes in what consumers are looking for in a holiday. They found more people willing to take domestic trips, but that British people are still yearning to take holidays overseas when finances permit. Therefore more needs to be done to inspire people that domestic trips can provide equally fruitful experiences, with a better value for money. ABTA said in 2013 (links to a .PDF) that the main reason for consumers taking a holiday abroad was to find sunshine. For domestic holidaymakers the main reason for taking a holiday was to relax and escape from daily pressures. If genial weather stops being a pull factor for overseas destinations, holidaymakers may soon be able to combine the two. We saw domestic tourism boosted in 2013 by the summer heat wave. In fact, the Great Britain Tourism Survey (link to .PDF) revealed an increase of nine per cent in domestic overnight holidays in Great Britain during July compared to 2012. ABTA’s own research revealed seven in ten consumers took at least one UK holiday in 2013, with 16 per cent taking four or more. Visit England found that quality and value are important when it comes to choosing a holiday, but other things, like the lack of risk, concern about being away too long, and the need for a break from reality, were just as high in peoples’ minds. If we account for future UK weather being reliably pleasant this may reduce some of the risk people associate with domestic beach holidays. Shorter holidays would also be more common as people wouldn’t need to spend as much time and stress travelling to their destination. We spoke to a representative of Cosford Caravans, a caravan and motorhome dealership who have been entrenched in the staycation trend for over 25 years, about what this shift towards staycations has meant for business, and what it could mean for tourism abroad: “The recent spate of good summers, and the forecast of more hot weather to come, has most definitely changed the public’s perception of domestic holidays. Once considered by many as a holiday for those who are unable to travel abroad, more and more people we are talking to in our showrooms are considering UK staycations as their first and most desirable holiday option. “What this means for classic ‘Brits abroad’ holiday destinations is hard to say, but if the increase in people holidaying in the UK that we are seeing is part of a consistent nationwide attitude shift it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that these foreign holiday spots could suffer because of it.“ Britain has a well-establish tourism infrastructure, with things like accommodation, food quality and richness of experience as some of its main strengths. But beaches, ice creams, and sun tans are the three pillars of any desirable summer vacation, and the main thing that links them is the sun. If the UK had the weather on its side, the reasons for leaving the country would be significantly reduced. Then again, the Met Office’s forecasts have been wrong once or twice in the past… Free to use images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons