Where once holidaymakers flocked south for the summer in search of scorching getaways, the climate emergency may be signalling a reversal of that trend.
It seems some tourists are shunning continental Europe, where temperatures are soaring to as high as 48C in the current heatwave, in favour of Britain’s cooler climes.
As travel to the UK returns to pre-Covid levels thanks to a weak pound, industry insiders point to a recent surge in Americans opting to come to the country instead of the continent, which they believe could be being driven by a desire to avoid intense heat.
“We’re currently seeing plenty of evidence of more US travellers choosing to visit the UK instead of going to Europe for last-minute holidays” said Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency,
“Hotels and airlines are reporting late bookings from Americans who were destined for southern Europe but who have opted to choose the UK, and Ireland, instead due to the intensity of the heat further south.”
The number of European visitors planning trips to Mediterranean holiday destinations between June and November has dipped by 10% compared with the same period last year, as tourists seek less hot destinations, recent research by the European Travel Commission suggests.
It found that 17% of Europeans rated pleasant weather as their top criteria for choosing somewhere to go, while 8% were worried about extreme weather conditions when booking their holidays. According to the study, cooler countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Ireland and Denmark are now experiencing a leap in popularity.
The UK has also seen a resurgence, with inbound travel recovering to close to pre-pandemic levels. Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics show there were 7.7m trips from overseas between January and March of this year – just 8% lower than the number made in the first quarter of 2019.
Part of the appeal of British breaks are outdoor pursuits such as walking and cycling that are harder in the heat, said Hollie Du Preez, the destination development director at Visit Kent. “We know from our research that Spanish visitors are attracted to Kent for our heritage and they love taking part in outdoor activities that are best enjoyed in more moderate temperatures,” she said.
The pound’s weakness against some currencies, particularly the dollar, is also a factor. “Americans have been big spenders in recent months, attracted by the decent exchange rate in particular, giving them 20% more for their money,” said Charles.
The UK Inbound chief executive, Joss Croft, said Britain already offers a summer respite for tourists from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“For many years, the UK has been a favoured destination for visitors from the GCC looking to escape the heat in the summer months,” he said. “With the increased likelihood of annual high temperatures in continental Europe during the spring and summer, this might also become a trend for visitors from across the Channel.”
However, Charles warned that the current shift of US visitors away from the continent towards the UK could turn prove shortlived. “I suspect we’ll see this trend reverse during August, assuming that more normal conditions return to southern Europe, where Americans do like to gather for late summer festivals especially.”
Source : The Guardian