Understanding the reasons for domestic tourism
Domestic tourism benefits both the broader UK economy as well as businesses within a specific destination. To help understand the factors that influence people’s decisions to take domestic holidays, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) commissioned RAND Europe to examine the impact of publicly funded domestic tourism marketing.
What is the issue?
Domestic tourism benefits both the broader UK economy as well as stakeholders within a specific destination. To give an indication of the size of these benefits, in 2018 British residents took 97.4 million overnight trips in England, totalling 296 million nights away from home (with an average trip length of 3 nights) and spending £19.3 billion.
Each year, the UK government provides funding to the British Tourist Authority to cover their core costs and marketing activity. At present, only a small proportion of this funding is spent on promoting domestic tourism, with the majority being spent on marketing to potential overseas visitors.
How did we help?
To help understand the factors that influence people’s decisions to take domestic holidays, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) commissioned RAND Europe to provide evidence in this area, with a special focus on the impact of publicly funded domestic tourism marketing.
Researchers undertook a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) to provide a comprehensive, systematic and critical assessment of the scope and quality of available evidence on factors influencing domestic tourism and the role of publicly funded domestic tourism marketing.
What did we find?
Several factors influence domestic tourism:
- Economic factors: There is mixed evidence on the impact of economic factors on domestic tourism, though high domestic prices have been found to deter domestic tourism.
- Activities and specific destination-related attributes: These are found to have an important impact on both where people choose to travel and the level of domestic tourism.
- Demographic characteristics: Lower education levels and the presence of children are positively associated with domestic tourism. There is little evidence on other demographic factors such as marital status, age and employment status.
- Environmental attitudes: Some evidence shows people with more environmentally friendly attitudes have a more positive attitude towards domestic holidays. However, evidence also suggests that demand for international holidays remains high within this group.
- Weather: The climate in both the country of origin and in destination countries has been shown to influence the decision to have a domestic holiday or travel abroad.
- Transport infrastructure: Having good transport connectivity and improved accessibility are positively associated with domestic tourism.
Our rapid evidence assessment found several gaps in the evidence:
- The published evidence is generally dated.
- The influence of recent geopolitical trends like Brexit, security issues like pandemics, and new technologies such as social media and the internet have not been covered in detail.
- Much of the literature is based on evidence outside the UK.
- Many other relevant factors – such as tourism events, transport access and demographics – are either not covered or covered in too little detail.
- There is limited evidence on the role and impact of publicly funded domestic tourism campaigns on people’s decision making.
In terms of evidence concerning the role and impact of publicly funded domestic tourism campaigns on decision making, we find that:
- The evidence on the influence of publicly funded destination marketing on domestic tourism is very limited. This evidence gap is further accentuated when narrowing the scope of study to the UK context.
- A significant problem facing research in this area is the challenge of measuring the impact of destination marketing activities. Traditional approaches do not take account of the increasing role of the internet and online social media on travel choices.
- There is very little existing evidence concerning the impact of destination marketing (domestic or otherwise) on moving trips to outside the peak season, moving holiday trips to different regions or to encourage people to extend the duration of trips.
A second paper was developed looking at potential research methods and data sources to address identified research gaps. We find that further analysis of existing data sets – probably in combination with new primary data - may help quantify factors influencing domestic travel. Furthermore, new data sources such as data from mobile phones, social media and/or credit card transaction data may offer new ways to quantify the impact of publicly funded domestic tourism campaigns.