United Kingdom retains its attraction to European business travellers and millennials despite Brexit

European business travellers visited the United Kingdom in record numbers last year, despite the political uncertainty sparked by Great Britain’s planned exit from the European Union, according to data from BCD Travel. The travel specialist revealed the UK was the most popular destination for its European business travellers, based on ticket bookings in 2017, ahead of Germany and Spain. The United States of America (USA), China and India were the largest intercontinental markets.

In terms of intra-European travel, London was the most popular destination followed by Vienna, Amsterdam, Zurich, Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Milan, Madrid and Frankfurt. Looking at intercontinental markets the most popular destinations were New York, Shanghai, Dubai, Singapore, Beijing, San Francisco, Tokyo, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.

This insight highlights that Brexit uncertainty has not impacted the business travel market in and out of the UK like many had anticipated. Similarly, research by YouGov for Bristol International Airport has revealed that UK millennials are increasingly taking to the air despite money and Brexit concerns. The findings also show an interesting generational divide in attitudes to travel, with millennials much more likely to travel outside the UK than they were two years ago.

The research shows that more than a third (37%) of 18-24 year-olds and 28% of 25-34 year-olds surveyed for the airport said they are more likely to fly now than they were two years ago. This is compared to just 17% of those 55 and over. While changes in personal finances appear to be the biggest factor for those reducing their travel (34%), Brexit is cited as another reason for reducing their travel by 14% of 18-24 year-olds when compared to just 5% of 55 and overs.

More 25-34 year-olds are flying regularly for work than any other age group, with over one in five (21%) flying on business at least once a year from UK airports. Millennials also take more leisure trips, with more than half (56%) having flown in the last 12 months. Young adults are getting away most frequently, with 22% of 18-24 year olds enjoying a leisure break three or more times last year. This figure falls to 15% for those 55 and over.

Of the 40% of those polled with close family living outside the UK, those aged 45-54 are least likely visit their overseas relatives, with nearly half 48% saying they never visit. Once again, millennials travel more than older age-groups, with 29% of 18-24 year-olds and 26% of 25-34 year-olds visiting family outside the UK once or more a year, compared to just 18% of those 55 and over.

This international outlook is reflected in the way millennials think of themselves – 11% of 18-24 year olds identify themselves as European, compared to an average of 7% across all age groups. Conversely, just over one third (35%) of 18-24 year-olds identify themselves as English, compared to more than half (56%) of those 55 and over.

Additionally, and perhaps because they fly more frequently, cost is of greater importance to millennials when choosing which airport to fly from (67% of 18-24 year-olds and 68% of 25-34 year olds) but younger travellers (18-24 year olds) seem prepared to sacrifice convenient flight times (35%) and speed and efficiency at the airport (17%). This is reflected in the lower importance put on direct flights (46%), indicating a willingness to catch a connecting flight if it results in cost savings.

Younger travellers are also more likely to worry about the cost when selecting a destination with 41% of 18-24 year olds saying low cost influenced their last choice of holiday destination, compared to just 18% of older travellers (those 55 and over). Travellers aged between 35 and 44 are the least likely to seek out cultural experiences on holiday (23%), while climate becomes more important for older age groups (23% for 18-24 compared to 34% for 55 plus).

The results make interesting reading for not just Bristol Airport, but many regional airports as millennials could make up as much as half of passengers in less than 20 years. “Understanding what drives their travel decisions is important,” says Nigel Scott, business development director, Bristol Airport. “Their international outlook suggests they will continue to want to travel in future, so airports need to ensure we are providing the choice and value millennials are looking for.”

Other survey findings discovered regional differences across the UK. People in London, the South East and South West fly more frequently than those in the Midlands and the North was one insight, while Scots place the least importance on speed and efficiency when at the airport and Brexit has had the biggest negative impact on travel plans in London and the East Midlands.