Travel trends across UK Airports

Travel trends across UK Airports

It’s the height of the summer holiday season and peak time for airports to see  huge passengers numbers. Especially our UK airports. Kantar research show us that the UK population ‘love the idea of travelling abroad’ more than any other country worldwide.  An unsurprising statement based on these ONS Travel and Tourism figures - 70.8 mil visits overseas by UK residents in 2016, with the most frequent reason for visits being holidays.

UK airports have been experiencing steady growth figures since 2012, with figures increasing every year for leisure travel passengers. Passenger numbers now not only reach their height in the traditional core summer months, examples of an expansion of the peak summer travel period are evident. Across some London airports in 2015 the summer peak period spanned from mid July and throughout August, now in 2017 starts as early as the beginning of May not finishing until mid October.

So, who are these ever increasing airport passengers? Essentially, the majority stem from increasing numbers of Millennial (a.k.a Gen Y) passengers. On average they account for up to 46% of female passengers and 42% of male passengers. The growth of millennial passengers is crucial to understanding three of this years biggest travel trends:

1. Package vs Independent

The first trend is the growing popularity of independent holidays, with digital disruption from the likes of Airbnb changing the face of the travel industry. Digitalisation of the way people book travel plans opens up new choices to consumers- combined with Gen Y moving into their ‘prime spending years’ has heightened the effects of tech advancements across the entire travel industry.

This generation are the 18-34 year old Airbnb’ers who value experiences and memories over material goods. Socially savvy mobile consumers utilising apps and adopting new technology platforms they are able to book and review travel, accommodation, restaurants and activities any place anytime, and are not reliant on travel agent expertise.

That’s not to say there isn’t still a huge market out there for the package holiday. A place still exists for those who like having everything taken care of from their transfers to their breakfast. Package holiday goers want to make the most of every minute of their holiday, enjoy spending the most time at the airport - with the holiday beginning the moment they leave home.

2. Experiences over Possessions

A staggering 72% Gen Y are actively choosing to spend more on making memories over purchasing items. Take note, it’s a trend which is sticking around for future generations too. Gen Z in China are keeping this trend alive - with 62% of no longer believing financial accomplishment is the main signifier of success. A change in spend from mortgages and car ownership to travel and experiences is already evident.

We know that our airport audiences have a different mindset when in an airport to anywhere else - less systematic thinking means they rely more on heuristic cues. This opens up the ability for advertisers to influence the consumer with experiential opportunities. The socially connected selfie generation want to see products and services that will enhance their travel experience. The sense of excitement and adventure generated by airport environments results in passengers being more receptive to advertising messages and more open to trying new things. 

3. The Business of Leisure

The millennial business elite, are shaping business travel. BLeisure is booming. Up to 83% of business travellers are extending business trips into leisure travel. This audience typically consists of key influencers across SME’s, who are at the forefront of business travel. Likely to be defined as the proactive 25-54 year olds who want everything now. The majority enjoy having the opportunity to travel for business, valuing the variety this gives them over that of being ‘chained to a desk’. Known to be a hard to reach audience, airport environments provide an opportunity to do capture their attention whilst they are in a positive mindset.


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