Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest Great Britain poll conducted on 20 January 2021 finds that 45% of the British public intend to travel on holiday this summer, whereas 55% do not intend to travel on a holiday. The 45% who intend to travel comprises 19% of the overall sample who intend to travel abroad, 18% who intend to travel domestically, and 8% who intend to travel both abroad and domestically. These figures essentially translate to about a quarter (27%) of the British public saying they intend to travel abroad this summer.
The results from our poll appear to reflect the pent-up demand for travel that exists across Britain. Not only are many respondents eager to finally go on holiday abroad after a year of travel restrictions, but many more will also be looking forward to visiting friends and family living in other countries or in other parts of the UK. Among young people, in particular, there appears to be a significant amount of pent-up demand and desire to travel: 37% to 38% of 18-to-34-year-olds intend to travel abroad this summer, a figure substantially higher than the 27% of the overall British public. Londoners in particular expressed a strong intention to travel this summer, with 41% of respondents in London saying they intend to travel abroad this summer, and 59% saying they generally intend to travel, whether domestically or abroad.
Looking back to last summer, on 18 June 2020, as the first lockdown gradually came to an end, we asked the British public about their travel intentions for the remainder of the year. Back then, 14% said they intended to travel abroad in 2020, 16% said they intended to travel domestically, and 59% said they did not intend to travel at all. Likewise, back in June 2020, a similar age group pattern could be observed, with 45% of those aged 18-24 saying they intended to book a holiday at some point during the year (whether abroad or domestic), compared to only 18% of those in the 55-64 age group. Similarly, London respondents were significantly more likely than those in the rest of the country to say that they still intended to travel somewhere on holiday (46%, compared to 30% at the national level). It is important to note that the question was regarding booking a holiday and some may have booked a holiday far in advance. Nevertheless, these results indicate that a significant portion of the British public did feel comfortable booking travel during the pandemic.
Following the Government’s introduction of “air bridges” with some countries in July 2020, our polling on 8 July 2020 identified an increase in the proportion intending to travel abroad compared to the previous month. Once “air bridges” were announced and the overall coronavirus situation in the country continued to improve, 38% said they intended to book a holiday in 2020, whether domestically or abroad—an eight-point increase from the previous month. However, that same poll in July 2020 identified that, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 71% of British respondents intended to book a holiday.
Despite our recent research showing that the British public currently feels more unsafe than at any point since last summer, it is remarkable that there is considerable optimism about the possibility of holidays in the summer. For example, on 15 July 2020, only 19% of the public said they would feel safe taking a flight, compared to 72% who would feel unsafe. Half a year later, our 11 January 2021 poll finds that only 11% feel safe taking a flight (compared to 83% who say they would feel unsafe). Nonetheless, despite the public feeling more unsafe by this metric now than last summer, the percentage who anticipate booking a summer holiday now is higher (45%) than the percentage who in July 2020 intended to book one during the remainder of 2020 (38%). This dissonance is most likely a product of rising optimism connected to the various coronavirus vaccines that have recently been approved.
Amid the new mutation of the coronavirus that was first discovered in Kent and the ensuing worsening of the pandemic, the public is optimistic they will be able to travel again this summer, once the majority of the vulnerable population is vaccinated. At the same time, recent discussion that the UK Government is considering measures such as Australia-style quarantine hotels may mean that the summer holidays could potentially be at risk.