Corporate strategy

Demand for Flights to Italy, Portugal, Spain Constant Despite Pound's Drop say Cheapflights.co.uk

Andrew Shelton Cheap Flights

Despite the 2016 slump in the value of the British Pound the UK's oldest flight comparison company has reported Brits remain undaunted when it comes to booking a foreign getaway.

Tourism is a booming industry for the UK, and Brexit seems to have had only a positive impact on vacations for our friends both across the pond and in Europe, as travelling costs become cheaper thanks to a drop in sterling.

But it seems us Brits aren’t averse to the odd holiday either, and sunshine destinations to Spain and Portugal remain our tipple of choice according to Cheapflights.co.uk.

The company, part of the Momondo Group, is the original flight comparison site, founded all the way back in 1996.

They aim to show a wide variety of booking choices as they advertise prices for both large tour operators and telephone only operators.

They have also embraced the technology of smart search – that is using meta-search data to intelligently inform them of what search criteria is popular from users all over the world.

It’s something Andrew Shelton, the companies first managing director, made a focus when he transitioned to the company in September, 2015.

And it’s how he can identify that Brexit has only highlighted the unflappable prowess of the British public.

Talking to Pound Sterling Live he says, “Five months on from the vote, the outlook for outbound travel from the UK is confounding the pre-Brexit doubters. When coupled with signs of a nascent boom for inbound tourism fuelled by some of our European neighbours, the indication is that travellers on both sides of the Channel are unfazed by the enforced divorce to come.”

In the run up to the June 23rd referendum Cheapflights.co.uk were expecting a drop off in searches by Brits for flights abroad as pound sterling first dropped and then recovered slightly, in essence the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was at its peek.

But Shelton found that wasn’t the case.

He says, “In the final few days before the EU Referendum vote, we saw an increase of up to 40% in searches for travel to tried and trusted European holiday destinations, suggesting Brits had succumbed to some of the scaremongering about a likely rise in cost of European travel following a ‘Leave’ mandate – and suggesting those numbers would plummet straight after,” he added. 

“In reality, looking at the first three months since then, the popularity of some of the most traditional European destinations endures. As search levels for flights to Italy, Portugal and Spain remain constant – and robust – and some have even risen post-Brexit.”

Shelton's observations are backed by the latest official statistics from the ONS which show that in the 3 months to September 2016, UK residents' visits abroad increased by 7% when compared with the same period in 2015 and increased 11% when comparing September 2016 with September 2015.

This increase was partly driven by the number of extra holidays taken over this 3 month period, an increase of 6%, say the ONS.

Inbound Travel Bounces as Pound Falls

Looking to the in-bound side of travel, it’s clear from the searches on the site that the interest comes predominantly from the currency winners.

It comes as no surprise that the largest increase in flight searches come from the US, although perhaps no-one could predict the scale of demand that the website has experienced.

Shelton himself was surprised:

“The initial surge in UK-bound flight searches from overseas, which saw an overnight increase of 100% from the USA, and 61% from China, has flattened out or in some cases even declined – searches for flights to the UK from Russia have dipped by 18% compared to the three months prior to the result, and from Australia by 12%, suggesting that the UK inbound tourism sector may have to look to our closer European neighbours for succour.”

With the Pound hitting a ceiling of around €1.17 at the moment it seems as though the UK will remain an attractive place for Europeans to holiday for a long time to come.

Holidaying Through Uncertainty

Although more surprising is the number of Brits still searching for flights at a time of uncertainty, which completely goes against the austerity message of the Remain side.

Shelton agrees, “Initial expectations for a post-vote release of pent up demand haven’t materialised, and our data shows that, so far, the result has not had a significantly detrimental effect either on inbound or outbound travel searches.”

What remains to be seen is to whether any emerging headlines over the government’s recent court case, Article 50, or a ‘hard-Brexit’ massively effect the current delicate currency relations between the dollar, Euro and sterling. Which could affect the popularity of the UK as a tourist destination, as seen by the petering off of interest from China and indeed Russia.

But Shelton says, “The special relationship between the UK and USA appears to have weathered the shock of Brexit. Despite the weakened Pound, the UK travellers have driven a rise of 9% in searches for transatlantic flights since the vote, with a 24% jump on the other side of the pond for inbound flights. Our data shows that the Americans are still coming, even if the Russians are not.

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