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UK consumers happy online and travel is no exception, research finds

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When it comes to booking travel UK consumers are more than comfortable with doing it online, the RetailX UK Travel 2023 report has found.

The research also shows that the UK has the most advanced ecommerce market in Europe, with 31% of consumers shopping online more than once a week. With 5% doing so more than once a day – online is the default.

Hotel bookings on the rise
In all segments, online booking prevails (outside of regular commuting journeys), with hotels leading the way. Hotel bookings are on the rise generally, with the coronation and Eurovision perhaps having a particular effect on behaviour in recent months. 

People are still booking rooms mostly online, despite the periodic consumer watchdog warnings to call direct for better deals. This is followed by flight tickets and vacation apartments. 

At the bottom of the list, it is campervans that attract a greater proportion of offline booking, this is most likely due to both proximity of purchase and a greater need to see what you are actually letting yourself in for when you fill up the tank. 

Straight to source
When making the booking, UK shoppers still prefer to go direct to the source rather than trust a thirdparty app. This is more likely to happen with flight tickets than any other segment. 

Train tickets are the item that are most likely to be purchased through a third-party app, but 29% of consumers still buy bus tickets through a company’s own app. Package holidays and campervans are more likely to than any other segment to be booked on a thirdparty website. 

Cancellation-happy GenZ
The way consumers view cancellations has shifted slightly after the pandemic and many companies opted to drop cancellation penalties altogether to account for illness or inability to travel. 

This means that demand for flexible bookings has boomed. A 2023 World Travel And Tourism Council report suggests that travellers now expect amending flight and hotel dates to be less costly and cancelling bookings to be effortless. 

Consumers are also increasingly more willing to spend on travel insurance that covers flight cancellations. A Tripadvisor survey found that 78% of travellers believe flexible cancellation essential for future trips. 

Our research showed that UK travellers still don’t like to cancel unless necessary, with 77% saying they hadn’t cancelled a trip in the last 12 months. Just 15% said they’d paid extra to cancel, change departure or arrival times or check-ins after the trip had started (this was 17% beforehand). This is slightly less than the European average. 

However, there are some generational differences. It is Generation Z who are most likely to make modifications or cancellations before and during a trip, but the over-78s almost never do either. 

This feature was authored by Hazel Davis, and originally appeared in the RetailX UK Travel 2023 report. Download it in full which explores how although consumers are keen to get away, their limited funds mean they are being pickier than ever. They are putting in extra work to find discounts and they are choosing flexible and refundable options.

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