Med Pearls: key facts about the United Kingdom as a potential market for Slow Tourism


Following the series of articles about the Med Pearls research projects on the international demand for Slow Tourism (the ‘Research study on Slow Tourism international trends and innovations’ and the ‘Analysis of the Slow Tourism International Demand’), we continue with the description of the main highlights of the outbound-markets of the Med-Pearls countries. In this article, we will focus on the information discovered regarding how tourism agents should create, promote, and market their slow tourism products to the United Kingdom. 

With a population of almost 65 million people, the United Kingdom ranks in third place on the list of tourism outbound markets towards the countries of the Med Pearls. In 2018, the number of outbound overnight trips from the UK was of 72 million trips, with figures showing that in 2017 Brits travelled on average 3.5 times a year (68% of trips were overseas).  They usually spend around two weeks on summer holidays and the average holiday budget was of 2.150€. Furthermore, in 2018, the most popular destinations of the Med Pearls project, by number of total tourist arrivals were: Spain (18 million arrivals), Italy (6 million arrivals), Greece (2,9 million arrivals) and Egypt (435k thousand arrivals).  

Among the United Kingdom travellers, city and beach breaks are the nation’s top two favourite types of holiday. However, there are trends that indicate that travellers are diversifying the types of holidays they do by looking for alternatives to the classic ones. Destinations ‘off the beaten track’, camping trips, and stays at mountains and lakes are becoming more popular, as well as adventure holidays. The most important considerations when planning a trip are the activities you can do on the trip, the cultural experience, to get the lowest price, and deals/special offers.

The research also found that, although not being able to identify a slow tourist profile in the United Kingdom, there are some habits and trends of the general British traveller that relate to the Slow Tourism philosophy (2019):

  • The market is becoming increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of holidays and takes it into account during their purchase process. 
  • Around 50% of travellers pay attention to the green credentials of the travel company they book services from.
  • More than six in ten consumers (62%) want travel companies to ensure their holidays help their local communities and their economies. 

One of the main highlights of the market research has been that the tour-operators that sell ‘slow tourism products’ or that have a ‘slow’ philosophy, are usually small or medium-size companies. An important characteristic of these operators is that almost all of them are members of associations like ABTA and AITO; which assist tour operators and offer commercial protection to their customers. Although there are no operators with 100% slow products, the research found that many operators are working towards offering a more sustainable tourism and becoming more responsible. For example, by supporting charities and their causes, or working towards ‘100% carbon neutral actions’. Furthermore, it is particularly interesting the fact that a lot of these tour operators have cross-selling in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Regarding fairs, in the United Kingdom there are no travel fairs dedicated only to Slow Tourism. However, the research found that more and more fairs have sections and stands dedicated to “responsible tourism” or “sustainable tourism”. Like with tour operators, the smallest fairs are the most specialized and often the ones with a dedicated section on responsible tourism. One important travel fair in the country is the World Travel Market, the largest tourism fair in the world. Other distinguished fairs are the Destinations Manchester and Destinations London, and the Birdfair. The latter is the most important birdwatching fair in the world. As birdwatching tourism is very popular in the United Kingdom, the fair presents interesting opportunities to the agents in the Med Pearls destinations.

Besides these outcomes, the reader will find that the research also developed an intuitive guide of recommendations to help in the creation of slow tourism products and how to get tour operators interested in their “slow destinations" and products. For further information on this topic, the United Kingdom market analysis, or the other studies done, you can check the links below: