The dramatic rise of UK staycations in 2020

When lockdown was announced and travel restrictions were imposed back in March 2020, the travel industry was by far one of the hardest hit and continues to be. After several months of flying a drastically reduced fleet, British Airways, Ryanair, and EasyJet all confirmed sizeable job cuts as airlines struggled to pull in a profit.

The decline of air travel 

Using data from SimilarWeb, when we look at website visits within the air travel industry from August 2019 to August 2020, we can see a sharp decline from March to April where visits fell by more than half from 74.51M to 29.57M. Even in August, with borders opening and restrictions lifting, visits were significantly lower than they were in August last year, standing at 54.49M vs. 94.49M consecutively. 

(SimilarWeb)

Visits saw a slight uplift in July, however, this did not carry through into August. This is likely due to the unpredictability of infection rates and the introduction of local lockdowns. Therefore, forcing many hopeful holidaymakers to rethink their plans. 

The birth of the staycation

This has left a gap for the UK travel industry to fill, turning summer vacations into UK staycations. This is reflected in the data from SimilarWeb for the search term “staycations UK” which before February of this year, appears to have received very little searches in the last 12 months. 

(SimilarWeb)

Interestingly, it is online publications such as The Express, London Evening Standard, Financial Times and Hello Magazine that are the most popular domains, with lastminute.com notably the only travel-specific website listed. This is likely due to the way the media has coined the term “staycation” when referencing ideal holiday destinations in the UK and incidentally the reason why they’ve become so popular. 

And the interest doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.According to data from SimilarWeb, the number of searches for the term “staycations UK” increased from 27,100 in July to 33,100 in August, meaning that now is a great opportunity to really boost your marketing efforts in order to push for more conversions. 

Holidaying in the UK

The below graphs from SimilarWeb displays monthly visits, pages per visit, and visit duration data for five UK-based travel websites from Aug 2019 to 2020. 

Monthly visits for all five websites dropped to below out of season levels (winter) around March through to May. But then rapidly increased from June and were actually higher in August 2020 than in the same month last year. 

Whilst website visits have increased, pages per visit have decreased in August compared to 2019. This could be a reflection of the way that COVID-19 has restricted holidaymakers’ booking options in terms of local lockdowns. Whereas previously, users would spend time looking at different options and locations to decide where to book. They may now be more decisive based on how safe they believe they’ll be. 

Visit duration has returned to the level it was in 2019, following a spike in June and July. As this was around the time that travel restrictions began to ease, the sudden increase in duration may be due to holidaymakers’ spending more time reading information around COVID-19 FAQ pages before they book. 

Paid search makes a return

During the height of the lockdown restrictions, often due to a budget reduction or tighter spending, many businesses within the Travel & Tourism industry drastically reduced their paid search activity. Data from SimilarWeb below shows that traffic from paid search is increasing, currently standing at 6,859,544 in August up from 317,718 in April of this year. 

(SimilarWeb)

This is a great time to optimise paid search campaigns, especially if you’re a marketing manager within the staycations sector. With searches for UK breaks on the rise and more people looking to holiday close to home, optimising this channel correctly could really improve your conversion rate. 

What does this mean for the UK staycations market?

Clearly, there are lots of opportunities for businesses in the UK staycations market to build on their current marketing activity in order to really drive conversions, especially with the forthcoming peak travel booking period. 

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Written by Emily Jones

Digital Strategy Executive