Is the staycation here to stay?

By Alice Wilkinson

In August, I am going on staycation. This is partly because I have a toddler, and I cannot even begin to imagine how I would handle foreign travel with a small child in tow. 

But it is more than this. With foreign countries constantly sliding on and off the green and amber lists, sky-rocketing prices for airline tickets, colossal airport queues, and confusion over self-isolation periods, it all seems a bit much.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed everything. In just two short years (that felt impossibly long), the way we live, work, eat, relax and travel has changed. Now, as lockdown restrictions ease, the big question is: have our attitudes changed for good? Perhaps.

Even as we emerge from lockdown, many of us are opting for holidays at home. Indeed, recent research found that 73% of Brits are planning to take holidays in the UK, despite foreign travel being (sort of) back on the cards. 

In fact, demand for staycation rentals has risen sharply in recent months. According to Which?, the cost of seaside accommodation in the likes of St Ives, Whitby, Llandudno and Brighton has increased by an average of 35%compared to last year.

Meanwhile, recent research from Barclays found that 23 million Brits will holiday in the UK this summer, adding almost £31 billion to UK GDP, mostly benefitting the most popular staycation destinations – Cornwall, Devon, the Lake District, and so on.

Our hesitancy to go abroad in the hunt for summer sun is understandable. Travel restrictions are easing, yes, but Covid cases are on the rise and nowhere seems truly “safe”. Add to this the very real possibility that a chosen holiday destination will be moved from the green to the amber list, or from amber to red, adding days of quarantine to a two-week holiday and making it suddenly untenable. 

At the same time, lockdown has changed our perspective. In the years we have spent at home, we have learned to love our local neighbourhoods. Lockdown has boosted local economies and cemented communities. In short, we have realised just how much the UK has going for it.

So, are staycations here to stay? Whilst many consumers are still nervous about foreign travel, others are less timid. When, earlier this month, the government announced that fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber-list countries would not have to self-isolate after 19 July, bookings for flights and holidays surged, with EasyJet reporting a 400% increase in bookings to amber-list destinations. 

So, though our confidence is shaken, it seems that the desire for foreign travel and all that it entails – exciting food, culture, people – is still very much there.

But lockdown has taught us lessons that we cannot unlearn. For example, the last two years have opened our eyes to the impact of air travel on the environment. Since the pandemic began, UK flight passenger numbers have dropped by about 90%. As a result, nitrogen dioxide levels near Heathrow and Gatwick are half those measured pre-pandemic. The global shut-down has given us a rare opportunity to reset, to adjust our behaviours and attitudes to foreign travel in light of such evidence. 

Furthermore, according to the Barclays research mentioned earlier, people in the UK have, on average, visited more places abroad than domestically. Given our national penchant for summer sun and the relative low cost of airfares, this is not surprising. But addressing this imbalance could be one way of supporting our local economies and encouraging the nation’s recovery, post-pandemic.

Of course, no one is suggesting an end to foreign holidays. The global travel industry is worth trillions, with many countries reliant on tourism and, undoubtedly, it is an industry we want to see recover. Not to mention that visiting other countries and experiencing new cultures is one of the great joys in life.

Still, there are lessons that we as consumers can take from time under the travel ban. For instance, though aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global carbon dioxide, as someone who used to take upwards of three foreign holidays a year, flying makes up a large part of my carbon footprint. 

For my family at least, the staycation is here for good. I have loved the UK holidays we have had so far; there is a lot more to discover closer to home than I had previously realised. So, instead of focussing entirely on foreign travel for all my holidays, from now on I will also be considering staying at home for my summer breaks.