UK tourism remains resilient in face of recent terror attacks

22 June, 2017

Tourists flying to the UK this summer appear so far to be relatively undaunted by recent terror attacks, according to intelligence provider ForwardKeys. The company, which predicts future travel patterns by analysing 16 million booking transactions a day, says looking ahead, data shows that, as of June 17, 2017, forward bookings for international arrivals in London for the months of July and August were 12% ahead of what they were at the same point last year. This is a significantly more positive position than the European average, which is currently 7.8% ahead.

The positive outlook for travel to London in July and August could fall or rise in the weeks ahead, but so far it has held up well since the London Bridge attack, as prior to the attack, bookings for July and August were 16% ahead, according to the company’s data.

The research also found that after the London Bridge attack, there was no significant wave of cancellations for air travel to the UK; although there has been a slow-down in new bookings. Despite this ForwardKeys remains bullish on the UK and particularly London’s tourism performance this summer.

“One needs to bear in mind that even though we have seen something of a slowdown in bookings for the UK in recent weeks, the forward booking situation for July and August remains extremely healthy and there has been a sustained positive trend in bookings for the UK throughout the year,” says Olivier Jager, chief executive officer, ForwardKeys.

CHART - Bookings for UK International Arrivals (2017)Source: ForwardKeys

Looking at arrivals from the beginning of June and forward to bookings for the rest of June, ForwardKeys’ latest assessment is that June will still show double digit growth on last year, 11% ahead.

Looking back, bookings for international travel to London (which accounts for circa 85% of the UK as a destination) had surged up 16.5% on last year prior to the Westminster attack on March 22, 2017.

That strong surge abated somewhat after the Westminster incident, as the surge in bookings slowed to a very respectable +7.3% up on the previous year, while after the Manchester bombing on May 22, 2017, enthusiasm for the UK appeared to wane further as the rate of bookings for London fell slightly, down 3.5% on last year.

Like all data there has to be a cautionary note. In this case ‘other’ influences may have impacted demand. The stall in bookings immediately after the London Bridge attack may have been impacted by June 5, 2017 being a national holiday across most major European countries, when fewer people book flights. Similarly, the Qatar travel blockade would have influenced those flying through Doha on their way to the UK.

The UK has had a very strong start to 2017 with the number of inbound visits to the UK for January to April this year a record 11.8 million, 11% up on the same period in 2016, with visitors spending £6.2 billion, up 14% and also setting a new record.

CHART - UK Annual Tourism ArrivalsSource: CAPA - Centre for Aviation and VisitBritain

Growth this year has been led from long-haul regions including North America with more than one million visits from January to April, up 16% compared to the same period last year. There were a record 8.3 million visits from the EU from January to April this year, up 7% on 2016. Strong growth has also been seen in holiday visits with a record 4.4 million visits from January to April this year, up 26% on the same period in 2016.

“Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and it is very encouraging to see this continued growth as we head into the peak summer season and beyond. We continue to drive home the message of value and welcome globally, particularly in our high spending markets China and the US and the valuable European market,” says Patricia Yates, director, VisitBritain.

Tourism is worth £127 billion annually to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions. Last year there were a record 37.3 million inbound visits to the UK, up 3% on 2015 with visitors spending £22.2 billion, matching 2015’s record spend. Visitor arrivals have grown by a quarter since the start of the decade with 7.5 million additional annual arrivals in 2016.