Travel was once seen as mostly a luxury activity; an opportunity for lavish – and therefore occasional – spending and indulgence. But times have changed. Now, going overseas is seen as essential for our wellbeing, our personal growth, our relationships and even our future success.
And our spending behaviour is shifting dramatically as a result.
In January, WeSwap released our 2018 Travel Index, looking more closely at the investment we’re willing to make in travel in our lives. It showed a stark year-on-year rise in how much we plan to spend on our trips abroad this year than ever before. In fact, nationally, the amount we’ll be spending on our main holiday alone is predicted to reach more than £13.4 billion for 2018. Plus, more than 7.3 million UK holiday makers say that travel is more of a life priority than ever before.
Part of this can almost certainly be put down to our increasingly busy lives. A recent PWC survey showed that more than a third of UK workers, in both junior and senior roles, are experiencing anxiety, depression or stress. So it’s hardly surprising that trips that take us away from the stresses of our day to day are more important to us than ever.
But it appears to be even broader than that. A Barclaycard study suggested that while we’re starting to consume less, we are, increasingly, doing more – across the board. Spending in restaurants went up 16% last year, for instance, while department store spending suffered a 1% drop. All of this against the backdrop of the ongoing decline in retail sales.
The shift seems clear; we’re beginning to seek fulfilment elsewhere. And travel is a key part of the ‘Experience Economy’ trend that is taking hold of the nation’s financial priorities.
Our survey showed that more than two million of us are planning to spend upwards of 50% of our disposable income on non-work-related travel. Overall, budget per trip is now hitting £821 per person, up from £726 in 2017. We’re also saving up more too. With almost eight million people aiming to spend over £2,000 abroad this year, up from 5.9 million in 2017, we’re clearly prioritising travel in our financial planning.
The focus on “doing” over “buying” even extends into what we choose to spend on when we’re on our holidays themselves. Our results show we’re prioritising spending on cultural activities and tourist attractions overseas, vs hitting the shops. This echoes the results of a 2017 study by the global management consulting firm L.E.K., showing that even at the luxury travel level, the modern luxury traveller values experience over opulence. We’re spending big, but would prefer it be on things like a private jet tour over the African safari, rather than a lavish penthouse hotel room. These moments, and the long-lasting memories they bring, are more important to us than ever.
But why is this the case? One theory could be that we’re increasingly aware of the benefits these experiences give us to cope with the stresses of everyday life. According to the Global Coalition on Aging, our stress levels significantly reduce within two or three days of taking a trip abroad. And it seems we know it – our study showed that over 30% of us are planning our vacations months in advance, compared to only 13% who book trips spontaneously, reflecting that our holidays are front-of-mind all year. We’re putting effort into planning, making sure nothing gets in the way of our getaways.
This recognition of the benefits of travel to our health and to our lives, along with our increasing preference for experiences vs “possession of things”, means that the pull of good memories, stories to tell, those Instagram worthy moments and the valuable new experiences that come from travel is stronger than ever. Travel is high in our hierarchy of life – and therefore, in our financial priorities.
As we increasingly begin to invest in ourselves, our lives and status seem to be defined not by what we own, but instead by what we do.