The UK and Ireland are set to further up the ante this year, with modern influences and traditional offerings working together to add to their appeal. Emily Millett writes.
There has never been a better time to travel to the UK and Ireland, and with figures from the industry highlighting continued growth, it seems the travelling public are in agreement.
“The UK continues to thrive as a travel destination,” said commercial director, Edwardian Hotels London, Hasnain Alloo. “According to the latest figures, London alone welcomed a record total of 5.5 million international visitors in Q2 of 2017, an increase of 10 per cent on the same period last year. Data from VisitBritain shows that the UK welcomed a record number of international visitors in the first nine months of 2017 – up seven per cent on last year, to 30.2 million.”
In response, Edwardian Hotels London has invested in its offering in the UK capital with the launch of Leicester Square Kitchen; the refurbishment of the ground floor of Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street in Covent Garden; and the bottoming out of a new Leicester Square development, due to open in the last quarter of 2019.
“The UK and Ireland have always had a strong draw to tourists from China, the US and the Middle East, but the weakening of the pound against these currencies has made a trip [to these destinations] all the more affordable,” vice president commercial sales, international, Hertz, Richard Bowden told TTG. “Both the UK and Ireland also feature highly on the wish lists of international travellers because of their relaxed pace, historical landmarks and beautiful locations.”
Irrespective of their clear appeal, a number of factors are currently influencing travel and tourism trends in the UK and Ireland.
“These factors include the economic and political uncertainty in the UK caused by the upcoming Brexit, demographic changes, technology and consumer behaviour,” area vice president, Hyatt UK and Ireland, Arnaud de Saint-Exupery told TTG. “They range from the importance of mobile use, to FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out) and the need for individual, tailored experiences and services. London has always been a number one destination for travellers with a multitude of experiences on offer. This year, we believe it will continue having an upwards trend with the eagerly awaited royal wedding and the Commonwealth Summit. Additionally, the good value of the Pound against the Euro is a great demand driver for short breaks from Europe.”
Further echoing this sentiment, regional vice president – Western Europe, Wyndham Hotel Group, Patrick Divall commented: “In the UK a new democratisation of travel is being bolstered by Brexit, as the lower value of the Pound against foreign currencies is leading to high numbers of international arrivals, whilst British families are opting to also travel domestically, where their money goes further than abroad.”
ALL SEASONS, ALL AGES
Although current influencing factors are helping to increase appeal, the UK and Ireland have long been firm favourites for travellers of all generations, regardless of the famously unappealing weather.
However, weather may no longer be an issue, as managing director, DUKES COLLECTION, Debrah Dhugga told TTG: “With ‘Cold is Hot’ being a key trend for 2018, according to Virtuoso’s 2018 Luxe Report, the UK is a sure-fire hit for travellers wanting to see the great British seasons, but with guaranteed five-star conveniences.”
According to Dhugga, multigenerational travel is also a continuing trend that sees couples bring the children and grandparents along for holidays.
“The UK is a perfect choice for this, with its abundance of activities and days out for the whole family,” she said. “DUKES LONDON offers ‘Family Escapes’, making us one of the only central London hotels offering five-hours of complimentary childcare as part of the package, ensuring London is easy to visit and accessible for all families, large or small.”
Last year saw DUKES LONDON open a new restaurant and refurbish its private meeting and dining spaces. Plans for 2018 include the refurbishment of public areas, the Drawing Room, lobby and 40 bedrooms.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park has also recently introduced a family programme, as the property’s director of sales and marketing, Jill O’Hare explained: “More and more families are travelling, and we are seeing a great increase in leisure travel, which means we have had to make changes and adapt. We have developed a family programme that makes the most of the royal park, and are looking at further improving the offering to provide an unparalleled service sure to delight our guests no matter what age.”
London’s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park has been undergoing a restoration since September 2016, with last year seeing the unveiling of the Knightsbridge side of the hotel, comprising new public areas, guestrooms and suites.
The second phase of the restoration is set to focus on the country side of the hotel, with rooms and suites facing Hyde Park due to be fully restored, along with park-facing event spaces. According to O’Hare, there are also two new penthouse suites with wrap-around terraces being added to the ninth floor, and spa facilities are being expanded. The restorations are due to be completed by the summer of 2018.
Further echoing the family travel trend, executive director, Iconic Luxury Hotels, Andrew Stembridge said: “The majority of our guests are primarily travelling for leisure, with family and multigenerational holidays becoming very popular with overseas guests.”
According to Stembridge, The Iconic Luxury Hotel portfolio invested heavily in 2017, with a new cookery school and an additional Treehouse at Chewton Glen, a new spa at Cliveden and a complete refurbishment of The Lygon Arms.
TRENDS FOR THE NEW YEAR
Boasting such a rich variety of options for travellers, the UK and Ireland are also seeing a wealth of additional trends emerging across the board.
International car rental company, Hertz has seen a growth in clients looking to get off-the-beaten-track, as Bowden explained: “There are many destinations increasing in popularity across the UK and Ireland that are further from the beaten track. [These are ideal] for those looking for interesting and unusual places to explore – from the remote coastal spots in Cornwall and Wexford, Ireland, to the highlands of Scotland.”
According to Bowden, bleisure travel is a trend on the rise, particularly amongst millennials, with travellers increasingly mixing business trips with site-seeing or using their days off to explore places they are visiting for work.
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill has also noted an influx in bleisure tourism, as de Saint-Exupery told TTG: “We have seen an increase in bleisure and this is a very interesting area of growth for us, given the appeal of our location to both the business and leisure traveller in the heart of London’s West End.”
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill recently completed a multi-million-pound refurbishment, adding six new guestrooms to the mix – increasing capacity to 440 rooms and suites; redesigning meeting and event spaces; and launching the latest concept suite in association with the Saatchi Gallery.
While new trends continually come to the fore, existing trends are still playing a key role in the industry in the UK and Ireland. Commenting on the continuation of the experiential travel trend, managing director, Rosewood London, Michael Bonsor said: “We see the need for experiences – not the most expensive but the most interesting and sometimes hard to find – moving to the top of requests. We still also see that a hands-on approach from the consumer will be a strong theme, where the guests want to immerse themselves in the local culture. It is important the guest knows they are in London.”
Last year, Rosewood Hotels announced that it will be bolstering its portfolio in the UK, with a second property to open in London on Grosvenor Square, Mayfair.
No stranger to the tourism hall of fame, the UK and Ireland are diving into 2018 with optimism for a positive year of growth, thanks to new trends and an attractive exchange rate.