Greg Wright: Hot summers offer chance to revive art of holidaying at home
These are turbulent times for the travel sector.
Climate change is likely to bring blistering summers to Britain, which will encourage more people to find their own answer to Majorca in resorts like Scarborough and Bridlington.
This is great news for traditional UK seaside resorts, but it’s a very unwelcome development if your business model is built around encouraging millions of Britons to flee the country for a couple of weeks each summer in search of a tan.
Peter Fankhauser, the chief executive of Thomas Cook, a household name in the sector, must have opened his window every day from June to August and prayed for rain. The scorching summer has been blamed for sending the company’s share price plummeting.
The hot weather meant many traditional Thomas Cook customers spent June and July enjoying the sunshine at home instead of booking holidays abroad. Mr Fankhauser said the company’s recent trading performance was “clearly disappointing” and investors shared this glum assessment.
Thomas Cook makes all its profit in the summer when its customers in northern Europe, including Britain, Germany and Scandinavia go on holiday, mainly to warmer destinations in southern Europe such as Spain, Turkey and Greece.
So Thomas Cook’s perfect British summer is damp and dreary. Historically, Britain has a pretty good track record in serving up dismal summers that make millions of people beat a path to the travel agent.
However, as the climate changes, Britons may get used to sweltering summers and become less inclined to travel abroad.
Climate change is a terrible thing, but we must acknowledge that, unless drastic action is taken, our summers are likely to get warmer and this will affect consumer behaviour.
Throw the uncertainty caused by Brexit into the mix, which is likely to shake consumer confidence, and the long term prospects for traditional travel firms become distinctly foggy.
British coastal resorts should be well-placed to undergo a renaissance. Why head to the airport if the temperature in Scarborough is the same as the Costa Brava?
If we can fix the woeful public transport system and improve the road networks, we will have a chance to revive the British seaside experience which was so popular with our parents and grandparents.
Meanwhile, bosses at Thomas Cook must be hoping that the British summer of 2019 turns out to be gloomy. Dull weather across northern Europe will mean more travellers head to sunnier climes.
There are signs that many businesses and consumers are tightening their belts in response to the uncertain political environment.
Travelodge has reported rising sales and profits in the first half of the year as more consumers and businesses opt for budget hotels due to the UK’s economic slowdown.
The firm pointed to “economic uncertainty” in the UK, which has helped drive up demand for budget accommodation among consumers and businesses.
However, Travelodge bemoaned the impact of “significant” cost increases, citing the National Living Wage and operational burdens, although it added that it has successfully navigated these challenges.
Consumers who are keeping a tight grip on spending, could beat a path to Yorkshire..
It’s a chance to revive the lost art of holidaying at home.