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United Kingdom tourism market: Lack of price competitiveness expected to hinder further growth
Travel and Tourism in the UK to 2017 - a new market research report on 2014-03-26 10:33:03
The travel and tourism sector in the UK suffered from the global economic slowdown but then recovered with the hosting of Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in 2012. Rising demand from developing countries, particularly India and China, is expected to support the recovering sector. While the UK government makes regular promotional efforts to showcase the UK as a tourist destination, lack of price competitiveness may pose a threat.

The country moved up two positions from the 2011 ranking to stand in third place in the World Economic Forum´s Travel and Tourism (WEF T&T) Competitiveness Index 2013. The country ranked third in terms of cultural resources, fifth in terms of airport infrastructure, and sixth for human resources in the 2013 index.

The UK is perceived as one of the most expensive destinations in the world. The World Economic Forum´s 2013 Travel and Tourism (WEF T&T) competitiveness index ranks the UK at 138th position (of 140 countries) in terms of price competitiveness. Government actions such as an increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20% in January 2011 have accentuated the country´s poor price competitiveness.

Britain´s five leading tourist attractions in 2011, based on figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, shows that visitors were attracted to museums and art galleries. The British Museum was the most popular site among tourists, attracting around 5.8 million visitors, closely followed by the National Gallery with 5.3 million visitors, the Tate Modern with 4.9 million visitors and the National History Museum with 4.9 million visitors. The Science Museum in South Kensington was the fifth-most popular tourist attraction, with 2.9 million visitors in 2011.

High costs and difficulty in obtaining visas continue to be barriers to international visitors, particularly for those from emerging economies such as China and India. Increases in visa and air passenger duty charges limit the amount of people from these economies who can afford to enter the country. The situation was further aggravated by increase in the UK´s VAT rates for accommodation and restaurants, which are twice as high as the average in mainland Europe.

Spain was the most visited destination by UK residents in 2012 with a volume of 11.1 million. A strong British pound against the euro has made it cheaper for UK residents to travel to Europe. For UK travelers, Europe is easily accessible by air, rail and sea. Multiple low-cost airlines operate, which increases tourist traffic from the UK. Other key destinations for UK visitors are France, Ireland, Germany and Portugal, which together accounted for over 15.8 million UK visitors in 2012.

According to UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data 2012, easyJet dominated the UK airline industry with a market share of 43%. It carried 47.51 million passengers in 2012, utilizing 85% of its total seat capacity. British Airways had the second-largest market share of 30%, transporting 32.97 million passengers. The company operated at a capacity of 78.3% in 2012. The remaining airline industry was fragmented with smaller competitors such as Flybe representing a 6.3% share, Virgin Atlantic representing a 4.8% share, Monarch representing 4.1% and representing 3.7%.

London is a draw for every type of hotel operation, and any hotelier seeking to establish a global presence would consider London to be a ´must have´ location. The strength and maturity of the city´s financial sector, and the country´s overall business climate, have been a driving force in the changing financial and operational structure of the hotel industry. Some of the top-rated hotels in London are The Halkin, Hotel 41, The Milestone Hotel, Egerton House, The Levin, Four Seasons Park Lane, Plaza on the River and 51 Buckingham Gate

The importance of car rental in the UK can be seen through the success and growth of companies such as National Car Rental and Enterprise Rent a Car. National Car Rental, the UK´s largest rental company now has a fleet of over 40,000 vehicles and 170 branches. Car rental companies in the UK have their operations widespread across all the key towns and cities across the UK. They cater to the daily needs of the frequent airport traveler seeking choice and convenience.

The internet has led to the launch of range of new tourism intermediaries. Tourism suppliers took advantage of the new opportunities offered and developed e-commerce applications by allowing users to access their reservation systems directly. A number of web-based travel agencies emerged, while offline agencies developed their online content.

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