UK tourism holds up in face of terror attacks

Summer flight bookings still well ahead of last year

June 22, 2017

Tourists flying to the UK this summer appear so far to be relatively undaunted by recent terror attacks, according to ForwardKeys which predicts future travel patterns by analysing 16 million booking transactions a day.

Looking ahead, the latest data shows that, as of June 17th, forward bookings for international arrivals in London for the months of July and August are currently 12% ahead of what they were at the same point last year.  This is a significantly more positive position than the European average, which is currently 7.8% ahead.

The positive outlook for travel to London in July and August could fall or rise in the weeks ahead, but so far it has held up well since the London Bridge attack, as prior to the attack, bookings for July and August were 16% ahead.

ForwardKeys research also found that after the London Bridge attack, there was no (repeat no) significant wave of cancellations for air travel to the UK; although there has been a slow-down in new bookings.

Looking at arrivals from the beginning of June and forward to bookings for the rest of June, ForwardKeys’ latest assessment is that June will still show double digit growth on last year, 11% ahead.

Looking back, bookings for international travel to London (which accounts for ~85% of the UK as a destination) had surged up 16.5% on last year prior to the Westminster attack on March 22. That strong surge abated somewhat after the Westminster incident, as the surge in bookings slowed to a very respectable +7.3% up on the previous year. After the Manchester bombing on May 22nd, enthusiasm for the UK appeared to wane further as the rate of bookings for London fell slightly, down 3.5% on last year.

In the week following the London Bridge attack on June 3rd, bookings stalled further still; they were down 12% in the first week after the attack and 5% in the second week (it was 8.9% down for the fortnight) but by the end of the second week, with daily bookings turning positive, the growth trend which has characterised most of this year appears to have started to re-establish itself.

One needs to treat the stall in bookings immediately after London Bridge with caution because it can also be explained by two other factors: June 5th was a national holiday (Whit Monday) in most major European countries, when fewer people book flights (that holiday fell a week earlier in 2016); and the dramatic impact of the Qatar travel blockade kicked in with a mass wave of cancellations by those flying through Doha on their way to the UK.

If one looks at the UK as a whole, rather than just London, the figures reflect a near-identical trend.

Commenting on this data, Olivier Jager, CEO, ForwardKeys, said: “One needs to bear in mind that even though we have seen something of a slowdown in bookings for the UK in recent weeks, the forward booking situation for July and August remains extremely healthy and there has been a sustained positive trend in bookings for the UK throughout the year so ForwardKeys remains bullish on the UK’s tourism performance in summer 2017.”

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