In 2008, UK outbound tourism expenditure (excluding expenditure on travel fares to and from the UK) totalled £36.52bn, a 4.3% increase compared with 2007. Expenditure on domestic tourism (excluding day trips) stood at £21.11bn, which represented a 0.6% reduction on 2007. Combined, the total UK resident tourism market rose by 2.5% compared with the previous year. Moreover, in 2008, the turnover of travel agents and tour operators slightly increased.
The global recession and its impact on travel and tourism mean that the industry is currently facing its most difficult trading climate for many years. Many of the leading tour operators have been forced to reduce their capacity or the number of holidays they offer customers.
Consumers are also booking their holidays later, reducing the number of holidays taken and rejecting shorter breaks outside the main holiday season. This in turn may have lead to significantly reduced booking levels for tour operators outside the peak holiday periods.
In the year ending 31st March 2009, there were over 40 failures of licensed tour operators in the UK, a considerable increase on previous years. The failure of these tour operators, and especially that of the XL Leisure Group, resulted in the number of Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) protected passengers, who needed repatriating from abroad, rising significantly — the number of customers entitled to refunds also increased.
As a result of the substantially higher costs from tour operator failures, the ATOL Protection Contribution (APC) rate has been increased to £2.50 per passenger from October 2009, up from £1 per passenger. Had this increase not been introduced, the Air Travel Trust Fund (ATTF) that underpins ATOL may have become bankrupt.
2009 is expected to be a difficult year for the UK travel and tourism market with both the outbound and domestic sectors continuing to be affected by the worldwide recession. The market in 2010 is again expected to remain difficult although with some slight improvement, and it may be 2011 until a more substantial recovery is witnessed. The 2012 London Olympic Games should provide a welcome boost to the domestic sector of the travel and tourism market.
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