Several factors mean the launch of the UK domestic inter-rail pass could prove to be profitable for UK domestic tourism.
In partnership with the National Lottery and the UK Government, a rail pass is being developed for inter-rail travel throughout the UK. Covid-19 travel restrictions mean that international travel remains limited for UK tourists this summer, resulting in domestic getaways being the preferred choice.
Travel by rail is already popular for UK domestic tourists. Pre-pandemic (2019), 16 million UK domestic tourists travelled by rail. This figure dropped by 60% year on year (YOY) in 2020 due to lockdowns. Forecasts suggest travellers by domestic rail could increase by 105.7% YOY in 2021. An inter-rail pass allowing for flexible travel options across the UK could prove to be profitable for domestic tourism.
Several factors could make the inter-rail pass a success
Travelling internationally is complicated for UK tourists in the current situation due to travel requirements related to Covid-19. This means domestic tourism is the key focus for many UK tourists regardless of age, income or background. An inter-rail trip around the UK to famous and nostalgic hotspots could be a winner for many UK travellers.
Sustainability is now a greater factor in travel decisions. Travelling by rail instead of flying or driving is a more responsible form of travel. For 5% of UK respondents in a GlobalData survey*, reducing their environmental footprint is now a top priority. For 28% it is more important than prior to the pandemic and for 51% this is as important as before. The quest to become more environmentally friendly could see more UK tourists opt for rail transport when travelling domestically.
Rail travel also provides the opportunity to visit multiple locations over several days. A live GlobalData poll ** found that day trips are losing their popularity. Only for 11% of respondents the preferred length of stay was a day trip whilst stays from four to six nights (28%) and ten plus nights (26%) were most popular. With international travel very limited for summer 2021, a prolonged staycation via train could be desirable for UK tourists.
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Rail travel also holds strong experiential value. Themed train excursions can be planned, homing in on gastronomic or cultural and heritage significance associated with a series of locations. Certain events such as murder mysteries or comedy evenings could also be proposed, tapping into the desire for alternative experiences amongst the millennial market.
Opportunity for further development
In the UK, there is clearly an opportunity for development as there has never been a form of inter-rail package promoted by the government. GlobalData’s forecasts suggest inbound tourism to the UK will not recover until 2024. Therefore, it is understandable why domestic tourism remains a key focus for the national government and UK travellers alike. The government needs to maintain high levels of collaboration with industry experts such as tour operators and regional DMOs Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) for this initiative to have longevity. If successful, this rail pass could keep many UK travellers holidaying domestically even when restrictions end.
*GlobalData’s Covid-19 consumer survey, 2–6 Dec 2020 – 500 UK respondents
**GlobalData’s poll, live since 19 April 2021 – 602 respondents