UK holidays: This season’s Diamond

As Bridgerton returns to our screens this summer, now is the ideal time to explore the magnificent landscapes and culture the UK has to offer

This author is excited to share that the new series of Bridgerton has caused quite a stir when it comes to booking trends.

An upsurge in interest in UK hotspots has coincided with the release of Season Three of the popular Netflix show, with Google trends data revealing that searches for ‘Bridgerton filming locations’ have increased by 1,274%, reaching an all-time high in May.

The popularity of Bridgerton is having a knock-on effect on domestic tourism, as holidaymakers become captivated with what’s on offer closer to home.

Dunster Castle in Somerset, England

Visit West, Bath’s tourism body, says the period drama has added more than £5 million to the local economy thus far, from UK and international visitors, and expects that figure to increase in 2024 with the release of the new series. The Regency era show is also responsible for thousands of extra visitors to The Guildhall, the Royal Crescent, and other historic Bath tourist attractions that feature.

Similarly, Castle Howard in North Yorkshire reported that the number of visitors aged 18-24 to its website was up by more than 3,400% after Bridgerton was released.

UK baths
Bath’s Royal Crescent

In for a penny

Aside from the glamorous TV link, there are many reasons why a UK staycation might be more appealing this year. With an array of great hotels, tours and product, the UK has a lot to offer.

“The UK is always popular as a holiday choice, year-round, and this year is no different,” says Claire Dutton, Trade Sales Manager at JG Travel Group. “Holidaying in the UK is convenient, avoids airports and exchange rates and there is so much choice in terms of where to go and what to do.”

The cost of living issue is impacting on holiday choices too, as travel abroad becomes more expensive, says Denise Hill, VisitScotland’s Head of Intermediary Marketing. “The cost of living is influencing some decision making, for example shorter breaks, choosing cheaper accommodation and people looking for more free things to do. However, this differs by household income and life stage.”

Older travellers are a good target market, agrees Leger Shearings Group’s Head of Retail Sales, Ashley Dellow. “The less price conscious UK traveller, especially the newly retired with time on their hands, has discovered the delights of UK short breaks and realised how much of the country there is to see. They tend to book a few tours in the UK a year, in addition to their main holiday abroad.”

UK Cornwall
Penzance, Cornwall

Summer sale

As travel tastes continue to evolve beyond the traditional fly and flop, agents have an opportunity to sell closer to home. Rail and coach trips, among others, are showing increased bookings, as are breaks in colder-climate destinations.

“It’s important for agents to remember that UK breaks tend not to be weather dependent. Customers know that the weather cannot be guaranteed and that’s not the primary reason why they choose them,” says Dutton. “They want to get away and experience a new place or attraction, and in many cases a UK short break is in addition to a main overseas holiday.”

UK Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland

Easily accessible locations that offer both beauty and sustainability are popular too, says Hill. “Scotland is very accessible to UK residents. A trend we are noticing is interest in rail travel, which reflects growth in awareness of more sustainable options – and Scotland delivers some of the most awe-inspiring journeys by rail.”

Data from VisitScotland supports this trend: “Our 2023 Scotland Visitor Survey showed that UK visitors were very positive about their holiday or short break experiences with 81% likely to recommend Scotland to friends and family and 89% quite or very likely to return to Scotland in the next five years,” adds Hill.

“We are seeing lots of interest in breaks to Scotland and have added more itineraries and dates to existing tours to meet demand,” confirms Dutton.

“Our UK rail experiences really go deep into the heart of the UK countryside, and these have shown increased bookings,” says Dellow. “Bookings for UK festive breaks, especially over the actual Christmas and New Year period, have increased significantly as people realise it’s often cheaper and more fun to go away.”

Both Leger Shearings and JG Travel Group are noticing the continued popularity of coastal resorts, including the Isle of Wight, Whitby, Scarborough and the English Riviera. “Naturally, the coastal resorts are always very popular; this year bookings for St Ives and St Mawes are up and the Lake District is a firm favourite,” says Dellow.

The River Thames flows through Oxford

Guaranteed greatness

Agents trying to make the case for a UK break should emphasise the amount of choice right on clients’ doorsteps, says Dellow. “Beautiful coastal resorts, stunning mountain views such as Snowdonia in North Wales, and breathtaking scenery in Scotland for example. Travelling by coach also means someone else does the driving and takes care of parking. Agents who know the product can easily make a couple of bookings in one sale!”

It’s worth also taking advantage of the tendency for many to book two holidays a year, meaning a UK holiday does not have to replace a trip overseas. “The UK is always worth offering as an option to customers, and this is something I tell agents time and time again,” says Dutton.

“We find that many of our customers love to visit places in the UK multiple times, often returning to a place they went to in their childhood that holds precious memories or a place they have grown to love more recently and they return year after year.

UK Cumbria 1
Broadrayne, Cumbria

Where to book it

The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa

The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa has a new ‘Bath on Screen’ package, which includes a two-hour tour of Bridgeton filming locations, led by a guide. The package includes a two-night stay, one lunch, and unlimited use of The Spa & Bath House. Priced from £934 per room. royalcrescent.co.uk