Almost two-thirds (62%) of people have been on an overseas holiday since the lifting of the UK’s Covid travel curbs exactly a year ago, new Abta research reveals.
The data also shows that demand is now back in line with pre-pandemic levels in a bounce back from the lows of 16% in 2021 when travel was at its most restricted because of measures to control the pandemic.
Many operators and agents are reporting record-breaking sales since the start of the year.
The study shows that 65% of people plan to go on holiday abroad in the next 12 months, indicating that the buoyant demand is set to edge further upward, with more than a third (37%) of people having already booked a trip.
The travel association says a ‘freedom factor’ is driving the return of travel with consumers still keen to book foreign holidays, despite cost of living challenges.
Holidays are rated as the ‘non-essential’ item they want to prioritise this year, with 54% saying they will cut back on other non-essential costs so they can still afford to go on holiday.
Abta research also found that international travel has the potential to lead the UK’s economic recovery, with the outbound sector expected to grow 15% by 2027, outperforming the wider UK economy.
Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “What a difference a year makes. One of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic is now back, and in a big way, with demand for travel reaching pre-pandemic levels.
“Both our research and reports of strong booking levels from our members show that holidays remain a spending priority for the year ahead, despite the current squeeze on finances.
“On the whole, people are preferring to adapt their travel plans rather than scrap them entirely, primarily by going all-inclusive, booking early, or holidaying outside of busy periods.”
He added: “Challenges do still lie ahead, and many smaller companies still have a debt hangover from the pandemic, but for now at least, leisure travel isn’t feeling the same impact of the cost of living squeeze as other parts of the economy.
“A clear focus for the sector will be to continue the recovery by building a more sustainable industry, ensuring people and communities gain the economic and social positives it brings while addressing environmental challenges.
“Government support in this area will be critical in helping with hard to tackle issues such as decarbonising aviation.”