Spotlight: Sun shines on new seekers

In spite of the hottest summer this century, the young and affluent still preferred to take holidays abroad. Research indicates that tour firms must look beyond the price-sensitive beach sector to long haul and less developed areas of Europe t

Taking a holiday in July or August

One in four of the UK population aged over fifteen took a holiday of at least six nights away from home during July and August 1995, not including visits to friends or relatives. This very high proportion indicates that, in spite of the rising popularity of winter holidays, the peak season is still concentrated into these two summer months.

Although school vacations play a part in determining this surge, families with children are by no means are the only cause of the boom. Although just over 33 per cent of households with children took a holiday in this period, compared with 26 per cent of all adults, families still make up less than half of all holiday-makers.

Nearly a third of the young adults (15-to-24) interviewed had been away during July and August; this proportion gradually falls as respondents’ ages rise. Young adults were twice as likely as retired people to have taken a holiday.

Upmarket travellers, contrary to popular impression, are not avoiding the peak season, although they may be taking off-season holidays as well. AB respondents are the most likely holidaymakers and DE the least, social class presumably being synonymous with affluence in this case.

Factors influencing choice of operator

The major influences in choosing between holiday companies are price and previous experience. Straightforward price comparison is supplemented by brochure and point-of sale special offers, reflecting the price-conscious supplier market this season. However, personal experience, bolstered by personal and agents’ recommendations, is equally important.

mThe different types of

offer seem to appeal to different sectors of the market. Price comparison is particularly important to under-25s, but these respondents are less interested in special offers within the brochure or at point of purchase. Brochure offers are strongly influential to families with children, reflecting the offers featured on cover flashes, and in advertising when the new season’s holidays are launched. Special offers and discounts advertised in travel agents and on Teletext are used more by the 45-plus age group, and upmarket travellers, who may be more flexible in their holiday arrangements.

Southern respondents were more likely to be influenced by all three categories of economy than those in the North and Midlands.

Holidaymakers reveal a strong level of loyalty to operators, nearly twice as many being influenced by previous, presumably satisfactory, experience as by the desire for experimentation: holidays are too precious for most people to take a chance with. This reliance on experience is also manifested in the influence on personal recommendation and, to a lesser extent, on travel agent’s advice. Repeat purchase is particularly marked among the over-45s and AB travellers.

Fifty per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds had chosen their holiday company because of personal recommendation, which probably reflects peer-group pressure and the popularity of “group” holidays. People with children are the most likely to be swayed by their travel agent, presumably by specialist advice and information.

European resort holidays are more likely to have been chosen on price factors, other European destinations on agents’ or friends’ recommendation. Choice of operator for UK holidays is also strongly price-oriented, but has the highest loyalty rating of any group.

Countries visited

The UK was the most popular destination, with half of all holidaymakers taking a holiday in the British Isles, 78 per cent of them in England. British holidays appeal

more strongly to the older and perhaps more conservative traveller – especially to retired people. Nine-tenths of all holidays taken by the over-65s were in England, making senior citizens a comparatively insignificant market for foreign holidays, at least in the summer. UK holidays also show a strong bias downmarket, with two-thirds being taken by C2DEs. They are also noticeably concentrated among people living in the Midlands.

European destinations were named by 40 per cent of holidaymakers. The European market splits into two clear sectors of appeal; the first, consisting of the “sun and sand” resorts of Greece, the Spanish mainland and islands, Malta and Turkey, draw more than three quarters of their business from the under-45s; this is also the only foreign region where AB travellers do not have a higher than average likelihood to visit. Northern holidaymakers are twice as likely to choose these sunspots as their Southern counterparts.

The demographic profile of the second sector, the rest of Europe, shows a less pronounced age bias, but a marked skew towards Southern and upmarket visitors. Given the popular image of the British holidaymaker, it is perhaps surprising that the market shares of the two sectors are numerically almost equal. This may be because Britain’s second Mediterranean summer running has tempted some of the sun-seekers to domestic shores, diminishing the number of resort holidays taken, or because the predilection of the more affluent for non-resort European destinations gives the market some protection against an adverse economic climate.

The total long-haul sector, comprising North America, Australia, Africa and the Far East, accounted for six per cent of holidays in this period. Of these, the US was the only significant destination at four per cent.

Tour operators

Forty-four per cent of people taking a holiday in July or August had used a package holiday company or tour operator. “Independent” travellers, however, are concentrated in the domestic market; 80 per cent of foreign holidays were bought as a package, compared with 20 per cent of those in the UK. The reassurance offered by a tour operator is obviously far more attractive and relevant when going abroad.

mRespondents named 60 operators from whom they had bought their holiday. Airlines’ and ferry companies’ inclusive tours were named as well as more conventional package tour companies, although Thomson and Airtours were the only two operators with a significant market penetration.

Analysis: The Human Factor Tel: 01451 8447Research was conducted by NOP Research Group using the Weekend Telephone Omnibus on a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults in Great Britain

For further information contact Tony Lees on

0171-612 043MARKETING WEEK SEPTEMBER 15 1993

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