[First published on Travel Weekly]
The England football team’s march to the World Cup semi-finals has seen holiday sales slump but a deluge of pent-up demand is expected as the tournament draws to a close.
The unexpected success of Gareth Southgate’s young side, coupled with the longest heatwave in the UK since the 1970s, has been a double whammy for holiday sales.
While retailers of beer, burgers and large-screen TVs are enjoying a football-fuelled frenzy, the travel industry has slashed prices as demand has dried up.
England were guaranteed two more games after beating Sweden on Saturday, with a first final appearance since 1966 at stake if the Three Lions got past Croatia on Wednesday.
A loss in Wednesday’s semi-final mean they will play in Saturday’s third-place play-off against Belgium who lost their semi-final against France last night.
“Typically, we see bookings pick up after England get knocked out, so they tend to be more delayed than lost.”
Holiday price-comparison website Icelolly.com said search volumes fell, having peaked in the week prior to the start of the tournament. May was Icelolly’s best month since January, with searches up 8% year on year.
The site’s search activity jumped 22% after England beat Sweden, suggesting holidaymakers are planning a getaway either after the semi-final or final.
Ross Matthews, chief marketing officer at icelolly.com, said the impact of the sunshine was more difficult to assess than the football.
“Whilst we’ve seen search demand at lower levels than in May it’s clear the impact is due to the world cup, most noticeable when England are playing. After all, the British public love a holiday abroad regardless of the weather in the UK”.
“Also, we always see a strong spike in search demand once the big football tournaments end and a quick search on icelolly.com shows there are still a huge range of amazing holiday deals for as little as £199 per person for a week abroad if you are looking to depart in the next few weeks”.
Ruairidh Roberts, industry head of travel at Google UK, said the combination of June’s weather and the World Cup had led to a much quieter start to the lates period.
He said: “Searches have been disrupted, so query levels are down, and bookings have been delayed.
“We would expect, if the weather changes and England drop out, to see a pretty immediate jump in holiday-related queries in the UK.”
Industry analysts GfK saw demand for summer holidays peak before England’s first game of the tournament on June 18 before dropping away steeply.
Senior client insight director, David Hope, said that while bookings were clearly impacted during England games, the downturn had coincided with the hot weather.
“The start of the hot weather has had an impact on bookings, with both shop and direct [sales] showing negative trends,” he said.