SHERMAN, Connecticut—Though the incidence of travel within key European markets is on the rise, sentiment among U.K. travelers has taken a pessimistic turn.
The incidence of leisure travel during 2011 increased 8% in France, 4% in Germany and 5% in the U.K. But while French and German travelers exhibited optimism about the next 12 months, the perspective among U.K. travelers was less positive, according to PhoCusWright's “European Consumer Travel Report Second Edition.”
“Even before riots tore through the streets of London and other English cities in August, consumer confidence showed clear signs of frailty,” said Carroll Rheem, director, research at PhoCusWright and co-author of the report. “Intentions for travel in the upcoming year show that U.K. optimism for key metrics, such as budget for holidays, is neutralized by pessimism and uncertainty.”
Optimism, which researchers inferred from several different measurements such as trip frequency, intention, number of nights in paid hotels and amount of air travel, is closely tied to the economy, Rheem said.
Germany and France were pictures of relative stability in this regard. In the U.K. however, where political and economic anxiety led to rioting and other demonstrations, consumers were more pessimistic.
“As soon as you see the press start talking about financial troubles, we start to see that waning happening,” Rheem said of traveler confidence. “It’s very susceptible to macroeconomic changes.”
While researchers cannot mathematically correlate traveler sentiment with future bookings, the former is a “pretty good” indicator of what travelers are going to do, Rheem said.
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The online survey on which the report is based polled 2,621 travel consumers in France, Germany and the United Kingdom between 20 May and 1 June 2011 who had taken at least one overnight leisure trip during the past 12 months.
Travelers in all three countries added length at the exchange of trip frequency, according to the report. The percentage of travelers who took a vacation of seven nights or longer increased by 10% in France, 7% in Germany and 6% in the U.K. However, the frequency of trips in general declined to 3.6 trips in the U.K., 3.1 trips in France and 2.7 trips in Germany.
Other highlights from the report included:
- Younger travelers led the recovery, with 25 to 34 year olds exhibiting the strongest increases in travel incidence.
- Intentions for travel during the next 12 months are generally positive.
- Travelers from all three countries found traveler reviews more influential during the past year, with 74% of U.K. travelers finding reviews to be either “very influential” or “slightly influential” when shopping, followed by 67% of Germans and 56% of French.
- Online channels continue to gain share of bookings, which now comprise 64% of bookings in the U.K., 50% of bookings in France and 47% in Germany.
- More than half of travelers participate in social networks. German travelers prefer social networking primarily in a professional context while the British most often use it to socialize.
Mobile Internet access has reached 58% of mobile users in France and the U.K. and 45% in Germany.
For those with mobile Internet access, German travelers are substantially less likely to access the Web (46%) than travelers in the U.K. (58%) and France (57%).
All three markets saw a huge rise in the intentions for travel-related mobile activity during the next 12 months compared to the prior year, including the use of smartphones for real-time, in-destination functions such as making changes to reservations and using phones for boarding passes.
And while general mobile Web use was highest among 18 to 24 year olds, travel-related mobile activity was as high or higher among slightly older groups. For example, 43% of travelers aged 35 to 44 have used or will use their phone to check in to a flight, hotel, train or car rental, while only 35% of the younger demographic are likely to do so in the next year.