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UK Media & Consumer Market Update — May 13, 2020

UK Media & Consumer Market Update — May 13, 2020
13 May 2020 Zac van Manen

Accurate as of: 13 May 2020

Current UK status:

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  • As of 9am on 12 May 2020, a total of 1,460,517 people have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19), of which 226,463 were confirmed positive.
  • 32,692 patients in the UK who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.
  • The UK is now considered the worst affected country in Europe, exceeding the death toll of Italy. The US remains the worst affected country in the world.
  • Earlier this week, the UK Government laid out its roadmap for easing lockdown, which has been met with some confusion by the British public. There have been some minor changes to the current rules, and people who cannot work at home are now encouraged to go to work if they can safely practice social distancing at the same time.
  • The roadmap is conditional, however if all goes to plan, the earliest that we would see UK domestic tourism kick-starting is in July.
  • A 14-day mandatory quarantine for all UK arrivals (except those from Ireland, Isle of Man, and France) is being considered by the Government and would come into effect from the end of this month. UK airports have said that this will have a devastating effect on the already hard-hit tourism industry.
  • The lockdown and travel restrictions continue to cause a collapse in commercial activity, fuelling concerns for the longer-term physical, mental and economic health of the country. The UK economy shrank 2% from Jan-Mar 2020.

UK travel restrictions:

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  • As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.
  • Most flights in and out of the UK are cancelled. Airlines are cancelling flights approximately 7 days out from departure.
  • Brits abroad are strongly advised to return to the UK now, where and while there are still commercial routes available.
  • UK travellers are still banned from entering the US, as well as many other countries around the world.

Media commentary:

  • The 14-day quarantine measures have been met with criticism from airports, airlines and travel companies, some saying it would be a “nightmare” that would badly hurt a sector already in meltdown (Guardian).
  • Leading travel firm Tui has said it will attempt to “reinvent the holiday in 2020” but will be cutting up to 8,000 jobs in the process (BBC).
  • It is expected that health & safety will be a much higher priority moving forward in all aspects, especially travel. Aer Lingus was under fire for not observing social distancing measures on its Belfast to London route (BBC), as was Ryanair for a recent flight from Stansted to Lisbon (Sun).
  • It is predicted that the majority of summer holidays will not be possible due to social distancing rules (Guardian).
  • Some countries are beginning to lift their lockdowns and travel bans, meaning they will be open for tourists, such as Greece and Cyprus (Sun).
  • Industry experts have predicted that it is likely that non-essential travel to the US will resume in 2021 at the earliest (Telegraph).
  • The media predicts low airfares/prices in the short term, and higher airfares/prices in the long term.
  • Travel journalist Simon Calder predicts the UK and Ireland might form a ‘travel bubble’ which would permit travel between the two countries. Australia and New Zealand are looking into a similar format.
  • Media are still seeking destination/product news, health & safety measure updates, data stories and travel story ideas.
  • Online traffic for many publications is up considerably, while print readership is down.
  • Travel content relating to flight-free travel, natural landscapes, the outdoors, escapism, and getting active is increasingly sought after, as following global lockdowns people believe that holidays incorporating the great outdoors will be popular.
  • Sports, cycling and hiking holiday ideas are also sought after, with a destination focus on the UK, Ireland and France.
  • General feedback from publications is that press trips are on hold, but they will look at trip invitations from September onwards. They may not be able to commit 100% just yet, however.

Consumer commentary:

  • British consumer sentiment has dropped to its lowest since January 2012 as the vast majority believe the economy is headed for a recession or a depression due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a monthly YouGov/CEBR survey (Reuters).
  • Consumer spending fell 36.5% in April compared with the same month last year, with the main contributing factors being less travel spending and less spending in bars, pubs and restaurants (FT).
  • The UK furlough scheme has been extended by four months, affecting over 7.5 million employees and giving some hope for those potentially facing redundancies (BBC).
  • An online poll by The Sun showed that 23% of people thought they would be able to travel this summer, 23% by the end of the year, and 28% said next summer.
  • It is predicted that domestic travel will bounce back first, followed by international travel. This is because should there be uncertainty regarding getting ‘stranded’ somewhere, people would rather be closer to home. Staycations and weekend trips will likely be popular.
  • Consumers are still frustrated at travel companies not offering refunds, however many do not have a full understanding of the consequences of providing refunds instead of vouchers. It is predicted a number of airlines and travel companies will go bust because of having to provide refunds without the cashflow.

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