International Flight Bookings to the UK Up 105 Percent This Christmas Despite Inflation High

LONDON – 17 November 2022 – With its vibrant Christmas markets, abundant shopping opportunities and festive pubs aplenty, the UK has always been a popular choice for a getaway. With only five weeks to go until the big day the Christmas countdown is officially on. But while last year's Covid restrictions have come to an end there's now the cost of living crisis to consider. Sojern, a leading provider of digital marketing solutions for travel, shares the latest inbound and outbound UK trends for the holiday season. As UK inflation hits a 41-year high and Europe sees record inflation, how are soaring prices impacting travellers this year end? 

Holiday flight bookings to the UK are up across the board

Despite ongoing uncertainty around the cost of living crisis, travel appears to remain a priority as December bookings to the UK are up across the board. Although bookings are slowing down for domestic and international flights, total December bookings are up year-on-year since much of the bookings were made months ago. International flights (outside Europe) to the UK are up 105% YOY, European flights up 73% YOY and domestic flights up 38% YOY.* 

As of end-October the top five origin countries travelling to the UK this Christmas are the United States comprising 32% of total flight bookings, perhaps taking advantage of the dollar rising against the Euro, Spain (8%), France (7%) Italy (7%) and Germany (7%). Domestic travellers within the United Kingdom (5%) plus travellers from Australia (5%), Singapore (3%), Portugal (3%) and Greece (1%) make up the remainder of the top ten. This is a shift from 2019 pre-Covid where we see Oceania and APAC (Australia and Singapore) have moved into the top 10 in place of the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait). This is perhaps a result of APAC travellers pent up travel demand after strict restrictions were released this year. 

Travel to UK - Top Origin Countries (2019 vs 2021 vs 2022)

Looking at lead times over half of bookings (51%) to the UK have been made over three months in advance and over two thirds (38%) made between two to three months, likely due to consumers seeking to secure favourable rates on flights. The majority of travellers are booking longer trips to the UK of 8-14 days (37% vs 24% in 2019), with nearly a third (29%) staying up to a week and one fifth (20%) over a fortnight

Outbound holiday bookings are up 50% compared to same time last year 

Looking at outbound weekly 2022 vs 2021 Christmas travel bookings we see a 50% increase** compared to the same time last year, indicating that despite the cost of living crisis those who can are still prioritising a winter getaway. As of October 2022, 35% of all booked Christmas trips are for travel within Europe (+31%), 17% within Middle East and Africa (+39%), 17% within US & Canada (+32%), 8% South Asia (+29%), 7% Latin America and Caribbean (+46%), 6% Oceania (+495%), 6% Southeast Asia (+325%) and 3% East Asia (+339%). APAC and Oceania all had stronger travel restrictions in place this time last year which could be why we are seeing a larger uptick in bookings from UK travellers to these far flung destinations.

The top searched hotel destinations by UK travellers in 2022 are Dubai (9%) which could in part be due to travellers visiting the Middle East region during the FIFA World Cup in December. The remainder of the top five is made up Canary Islands - Spain (6%), a longtime winter destination thanks to its year round sunshine, Greater London - United Kingdom (4%), followed by the South West (4%) and South East of the United Kingdom (3%), demonstrating strong domestic travel intent to the capital and other UK cities for a break. Sunnier climes including Phuket - Thailand (3%), Orlando - Florida and Abi Dhabi - United Arab Emirates (2%) also appear in the top 10 providing an opportunity for Brits to soak up some winter sun. 

“While the impact of the cost-of-living crisis is perhaps starting to be felt, our data shows travellers aren’t willing to sacrifice travel this Christmas season,” said Sam Eads, Senior Sales Director at Sojern. “Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and Tourist Boards should take note of those regions showing the most interest from inbound international travellers, and use intent data to reach these potential travellers with messaging from your particular destination. With 2022 holiday bookings up on 2021 levels overall we’ll be watching closely to see if demand for ‘revenge travel’ continues well into 2023 or starts to falter.”

*December 2022 Vs. 2021 travel 

**Data as of October 2022 

About Sojern

Sojern is the leading digital marketing platform built for travel marketers. Powered by artificial intelligence and traveller intent data, Sojern provides multichannel marketing solutions to drive direct demand. 10,000 hotels, attractions, tourism boards and travel marketers rely on Sojern annually to engage and convert travellers around the world.

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