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UK Media & Consumer Market Update — May 27, 2020

UK Media & Consumer Market Update — May 27, 2020
27 May 2020 Zac van Manen

Accurate as of: 27 May 2020

Current UK status:

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  • As of 9am on 26 May 2020, a total of 3,681,295 people have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19), of which 265,227 were confirmed positive.
  • 37,048 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 and Spain. The US remains the worst affected country in the world (over 1.7 million cases), followed by Brazil (394,000 cases) and Russia (370,000 cases).
  • The current lockdown rules include those who cannot work at home are now encouraged to go to work if they can safety practice social distancing at the same time.
  • People may see one other person outside of their household in an outdoor space provided they remain 2m apart. Exercise outdoors is unlimited for those in England. Schools, gyms, tourist attractions, restaurants and the like all remain closed. Driving is permitted.
  • Non-essential shops are permitted to re-open from 15 June, pending they can provide a safe shopping experience.
  • Primary schools are likely to reopen from 1 June, while secondary schools will begin to reopen from 15 June.
  • The ‘out of lockdown’ roadmap is conditional, however if all goes to plan, the earliest that we would see UK domestic tourism kick-starting is in July. International travel is not expected to begin again until August at the earliest and is dependent on FCO advice.

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.
  • A 14-day mandatory quarantine for all UK arrivals from 8 June (except from Ireland, Channel Islands, and Isle of Man) has been confirmed by the Government. It will affect anyone arriving by plane, train or ferry. This decision has been met with strong criticism from the UK travel industry.
  • UK travellers are still banned from entering the US, as well as many other countries around the world. However, some countries have scheduled border openings and will allow UK visitors, such as Italy (from June) and Spain (from July).

Media commentary:

  • Business groups have accused the government of pursuing an “isolationist” policy after the home secretary, Priti Patel, confirmed that arrivals in the UK will have to quarantine themselves for a fortnight or face a £1,000 fine. The stringent new quarantine system will be reviewed every three weeks. The government confirmed there will be exemptions for freight drivers; doctors and scientists working on the pandemic; and fruit pickers, who will be expected to confine themselves to the farms where they work (Guardian).
  • There is an ‘air-bridge’ proposal under consideration that would allow Brits to travel to certain foreign destinations and return without entering quarantine. Reportedly, the Government is currently in talks with Portugal regarding this (The Sun).
  • Country Tourism Boards are outlining their safe travel and tourism policies, such as Spain and Portugal, while others such as Egypt are reducing visa and heritage site access costs to draw tourists (TTG).
  • Travel operators, airlines and airports are gearing up to resume holiday flights, with airports trialling new processes and the European Aviation Safety Agency issuing guidance on limiting COVID-19 risks while travelling.
  • Media are still seeking destination/product news and openings, health & safety measure updates, data stories and travel story ideas. However, health & safety measure stories need to have something innovative and use new technology to be newsworthy.
  • Travel content relating to flight-free travel, natural landscapes, the outdoors, escapism, and getting active is increasingly sought, as following global lockdowns people believe that holidays incorporating the great outdoors will be popular.
  • Camping, sports, cycling, hiking holiday ideas are sought at the moment, focusing on the UK and Ireland.
  • General feedback from publications is that press trips are on hold, but they will look at trip invitations from September onwards (although 2021 is looking like the safest option). They may not be able to commit 100% just yet, however.
  • Travel teams are still very small, with post publications putting a large percentage of their staff on furlough. Media feedback has been quite minimal, likely because those who are still working have an increased workload.

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 pandemic, according to a monthly YouGov/CEBR survey (Reuters).
  • Britain is likely to run at a 5% annual deficit of national income by 2024, according to calculations by independent economists (Financial Times).
  • Britain’s economy is on course for a slow rebound amid mounting business concern over the hit to consumer demand, despite early signs of improvement in May (Guardian).
  • 39% of Brits want to travel ‘ASAP’ after lockdown, of which 62% wanted to travel to Europe and 10% chose the UK. Of the long-haul holiday hotspots, the US was the most popular with 10% of respondents choosing it, followed by Mexico and the Caribbean at 9% and the rest of the world receiving far smaller numbers. The survey also suggested the traditional beach break has been missed most. It found 66% of respondents selected a beach holiday as their preferred post-lockdown escape, beating city breaks (38%), UK staycations (15%), touring holidays (14%) and cruises (11%) (Travel Weekly).
  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published guidance focusing on compliance with consumer protection legislation when responding to consumer requests for refunds and cancellations during these unprecedented times, which has been long awaited (Lexology).
  • The financial viability of travel companies is consumers’ greatest concern around future travel plans, according to a survey of 1,000 people. The survey by holiday home insurer Schofields found that 51% listed their travel firm failing as their greatest concern, followed by personal health and safety at 35% (Travel Weekly).
  • Agents are seeing a slight increase in UK bookings for overseas travel, particularly to destinations that are ‘off the beaten track’ and offer lots of outdoor experiences, such as the Maldives and Caribbean. Searches for these types of destinations are also up this week on previous weeks. This shows slightly more confidence in the market than before.
  • 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, as evidenced by recent increases in UK train ticket bookings.

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