Purposeless travel – what purpose does it serve?

Domestic tourism is worth £86bn to the British economy according to Visit Britain, with 72% of Brits taking a holiday within the UK in 2017 alone. However, statistics also show that in 2016, 16-to-34-year olds took almost 1.4 million fewer holidays in Britain than a decade previously. As the tourism sector looks towards a post-Brexit landscape, we’re asking: what are the key trends shaping the UK holiday market and how is inbound tourism set to change in 2019?

60% of consumer travel is now given the title, ‘purposeless trips’ – where the outcome of feeling inspired is more important than the trip itself. Travellers making ‘purposeless trips’ aren’t going to a wedding, a festival or a specific exhibition – instead they’re reconnecting with old friends or merely just looking for a getaway from their daily life – it’s escapism without a fixed itinerary. This leaves opportunity for experiential travel with a focus on mindfulness, creativity and inspiration.

At the heart of inspiration lies the demand for shareable experiences. Whether visitors to our UK hotspots are on a ‘purposeless’ trip or not, it’s almost certain they’ll share their experiences pre, during and post their holiday – notably as visual stimulus on social media. Proactive campaigns by tourist boards have encouraged shareable content to promote locations through the form of user-generated content, making it organic yet tailored, all in one. VisitYork developed the selfie trail – encouraging visitors to complete a route around the city highlighting the most iconic
photo spots.

Meanwhile, VisitEngland has recently launched its campaign #MyMicrogap – targeting young people with experiences and activities typically taken during a gap-year that can be condensed into a micro-holiday of one to three nights in the UK. Research shows that more than half (57%) of 18-35-year olds surveyed are likely to take a microgap during the next three years. These young people want the same self-development opportunities typical of a gap-year. Top activities and experiences sought are wellbeing and relaxation, visiting iconic landmarks, trying local food and
drink and seeing nature and wildlife.

Purposeless trips, experiential travel and ‘microgapping’ are all opportunities for growth within the tourism sector as consumers seek out inspiring getaways. Ensuring Brits are inspired by their surroundings and educating them (and ourselves) about what is within our 93,628 square mile island will only encourage domestic travel and a resilient UK tourism market.

Florence Bate attended the ABTA Travel UK Holiday Market conference – November 2018.