New research from ABTA* suggests that consumers are looking forward to spending more on their holidays next year with ABTA’s Consumer Holiday Trends Report 2014 revealing that 20% of people anticipate spending more on holidays in 2015 compared to 15% who say they will spend less.

While consumers may be feeling more optimistic about next year, this has yet to manifest itself in an increase either in the overall number of Britons taking a holiday or the number of holidays taken per person. ABTA research shows that there has been a small decline in the number of Britons taking a holiday in the last 12 months, from 83% in 2013 to 80% this year. There has also been a slight decrease in the average number of holidays taken per person, from 3.1 to 3.0, although holidays abroad remain stable at 1.2 per person.

The research shows that nearly seven in ten people (68%) took at least one UK holiday and more than half (53%) took at least one holiday abroad in 2014. Packages remain a popular option with value cited as the major reason for this. Greatest value for money (but not necessarily lowest prices) remains a top ten booking essential for the majority of consumers (66%).

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “It is clear that despite continuing pressure on the majority of household budgets, people are still keen to preserve their main annual holiday. While the market was very buoyant at the start of the year with consumer confidence on the up, the lates holiday market was tougher, perhaps reflecting the broader dip in consumer confidence in July, as well as good weather in the UK in June and July which we know impacts holiday sales.  The research shows there are reasons to be optimistic for next year.”

Average number of holidays stabilises – annual family week away is still a staple

In 2014 the average number of holidays per person was 3.0, a slight decrease on the average of 3.1 per person in 2013, which perhaps reflects the still-tentative economic recovery. However, numbers of people taking three holidays or more abroad rose slightly from 14% in 2013 to 16% in 2014.

The research indicates that the annual family holiday of seven nights or more overseas remains stable. It is also encouraging to note that 41% people took a holiday both abroad and in the UK over the course of the last year, building from 39% in 2013 to 41% in 2014.

Packages pack a punch once again

Perhaps because of the desire to be able to budget efficiently and accurately, package holidays have continued to emerge as a popular option for those holidaying overseas building on recent growth.  51% of people booked a package holiday overseas in 2014 compared to 46% in 2013. Perception of ease and of value was important for this group of consumers, with 62% booking because they have ‘everything taken care of’ and 61% saying that they believe packages to be the best value option.

There was also an increase in holidays abroad of 1-3 nights, suggesting that the overseas city break has performed well during the year, perhaps helped by a strong pound making short overseas breaks more affordable.

New experiences being sought

In the next 12 months over a third (35%) of consumers think that they will take a holiday to a new country and almost half (48%) say they are quite likely or practically certain to visit a new resort or city. Younger holidaymakers are the most eager to try new destinations with half of 16-24 year olds (49%) saying this is quite likely and a further 16% prepared to say they are certain they will go to a new destination.  Meanwhile, older consumers are more conservative – over half (56%) of over 65s and half (51%) of 55-64 year olds said that they would definitely not or would be unlikely to visit a country they had never been to.

Consumers are becoming booking early birds

Continuing a trend from 2012 and 2013, more people booked their holiday further in advance in the 12 months to July 2014 than in the same period the previous year. Just over a third (36%) of consumers booked their holiday further in advance this year, up from just over a quarter (27%) in 2013. Younger consumers were more likely than any other age group to book early – with over half (51%) saying that they booked further in advance. The top reasons cited for booking in advance were: better deals/cheaper prices (59%); to get better availability (51%); better choice (28%) and to get time off work (21%).

Regional variations – Londoners taking the most holidays

As in 2013, there appear to be strong regional variations with how many holidays are taken. Those in the North East, East and Scotland took the fewest foreign holidays per person with Londoners and those in the North West taking the most. Londoners leapfrogged the Scots to become the UK’s most active holiday takers in the last 12 months. Londoners took on average 3.9 breaks in the UK or abroad, up from 3.3 in 2013. Londoners also took the most foreign holidays per person, with 11% of Londoners taking 4 or more foreign holidays in the past 12 months. This compares to just 2% of those in the East and 3% of those in the East Midlands taking 4 or more foreign holidays. The Welsh took the greatest number of domestic holidays at 2.2 per person.

*Consumer research was conducted by Arkenford Ltd (www.arkenford.co.uk) who specialise in tourism and leisure market research. The ABTA Consumer Trends survey generated response from a nationally representative sample of 2008 consumers using an online research methodology and related to holiday booking habits in the 12 months to July 2014. Fieldwork was conducted July 2014.