The Hidden Impacts of Staycationing – Liberal Article
Given the restrictions on international travel imposed due to Covid-19, thousands of Britons have instead opted for ‘staycationing.’ People have travelled all over the country, with bookings for summer cottages almost doubling in January 2021 compared to January 2020. Of course, domestic holidays were popular pre-Covid; however, the problems that are created by this are only really starting to come to light.
As good as staycationing is for local economies reliant on tourism, services have recently been overwhelmed. There have been reports of overcrowding, littering, and localised price inflation; Summer 2021 has shown these problems on a mass scale.
If we take Cornwall as an example, Visit Cornwall estimates there are an extra 30,000 holidaymakers compared to the average. This is creating huge pressure on the local infrastructure. Malcolm Bell, the Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, says the “systems can’t cope” with this influx of tourism. Hospitals are overwhelmed, roads are blocked, and prices have soared. On top of this, with Covid rates at a record high in Cornwall, businesses are struggling to find the staff and resources to deal with the increased pressure.
Unfortunately, this is a recurring problem for the South-West, albeit amplified due to Covid. There is a huge disparity in Cornwall between locals and those staycationing. According to a 2019 government report on levels of deprivation, Cornwall is one of the most deprived areas in England.
In popular tourist destinations such as Padstow and Falmouth, between 33-53% of homes are second homes or holiday homes available for rental. This pushes local houses prices up, as sellers can earn far more if they sell to a Londoner looking for a holiday home or investment. It also creates additional strain on local residents as many of these properties are exempt from council tax, meaning the burden falls on them to pick up the slack. Wealthier holiday homeowners or renters are able to visit and benefit from local services without having to contribute to them.
Cornwall is seen by many across the country as just a holiday destination. People arrive, stay for a week, and leave without ever taking the time to consider the impact of their holiday. Whilst, of course, this is good for the local economies over summer and brings valuable money into the system, this is an unsustainable business model for the South-West. They are overly reliant on seasonal tourism. Over winter, tourism to the South West drops and the gig economy falls apart. One St Ives resident recently described the situation as a case of just “[hoping] that you make enough over the summer to last through the winter.”
The struggles Cornwall are facing this year have no doubt been exacerbated by long-term neglect of the county and its treatment as just a summer playground of London and the Home Counties.
If we look elsewhere in the UK, the impacts of staycations remain visible. North Wales is experiencing a similar trend to Cornwall. With record levels of tourism, Snowdonia and other popular destinations like Conwy are struggling with overcrowding and the economic and environmental impacts that come with that.
So, what is the solution? It’s a difficult one as these areas are reliant on tourism so to turn around and deny tourists the opportunities to visit and spend their money would obviously be devastating. But things cannot remain as they are, even as international travel returns to some semblance of normality and some of the strain is lifted.
What is needed is a two-fold approach. Firstly, the UK government need to invest more directly into these areas to allow them to cope. According to Cornwall for Europe, the EU has given over £1 billion to Cornwall since 2000. This has created 31,000 jobs, supported start-ups, and invested in transport infrastructure. With this money no longer coming into Cornwall, it is vital that the government picks up the slack and continues to invest in this area that needs it at risk of it falling further behind. Infrastructure needs to be put in place to protect jobs, the environment, and everyday local life.
Secondly, the attitudes of those staycationing need to change. This is probably the hardest part. People need to dispel the idea that these areas are just holiday destinations and consider the negative impacts of their staycationing, not just the positive ones. This year has (hopefully) been anomalous but reports of mass littering, dangerous parking and camping, and buying homes as an investment/holiday home needs to come to an end.
With increased funding and increased social responsibility, the impacts of staycations can be minimised and local infrastructures, economies, and environments can be better protected.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Luca Boyd
Point of Information
Is staycationing a new precedent or an anomaly? – A Conservative Response
Whilst my colleague highlights some of the significant impacts places like Cornwall and North Wales have seen as a result of the increase in staycationing, is this the new trend?
In the article, Luca discusses the large rise in staycations since the beginning of the pandemic due to travel restrictions going abroad. The real question from this is whether this will continue after things properly return to normal.
It is fair to say that some people will continue staycationing once travelling abroad becomes more accessible again, but how many people will go back to their old holidaying habits?
A YouGov poll from July showed that 46% of people believe “holidays abroad are usually better” than UK holidays. This has been reflected in how many Britons booked two holidays simultaneously during the lockdowns, one abroad and the other a staycation.
The reasoning behind this was that if their abroad holiday is cancelled, the second one acted as a backup. Whilst the number of holidaymakers that surged places like Cornwall and Wales increased, so many of them would have been cancelled last minute as people opted to go abroad.
I agree with my colleague that the attitude of holidaymakers needs to improve, not just to be more sustainable in their holidaying, but also, to act in consideration to the tourism industries of the places they visit. It is not fair to cancel a holiday last minute to go abroad whilst small tourism-based businesses have struggled over the past eighteen months.
Overall, my colleague has raised some fair points in the article. Whilst there has always been an argument that places like Cornwall are underfunded and in need of better infrastructure, with regards to the surge in holidaymakers the matter is more up for debate. People should be responsible and act in consideration to the places they visit whilst on holiday, but how many of these people will continue to staycation as travelling abroad becomes more accessible again.
The increased influx of money to the UK’s tourism industry is certainly a good thing due to a lack of an international holiday alternative, however, it is fair to guess that next summer many will go back to holidaying abroad. Hopefully more people will staycation and help out our holiday locations, but they still are in need of greater investment in general.
Written by Co-Chief of Conservatives, Peter Pearce
Will these problems just disappear? – A Labour Response
Overcrowding, environmental damages and unsustainable summer economies are some of the very real problems with UK staycations. Luca does well to acknowledge these problems that are so often neglected. But for how long will these problems last? And is there a solution we should be considering?
Naturally, COVID travel restrictions have led to an influx of tourism to popular UK destinations; notably, the Cornish coasts and Welsh mountains as Luca suggests. People are incredibly eager to get away and have considered destinations that have never before been an option. This is not an entirely negative thing; it’s great to see people enjoying areas closer to home for a change. But, I’m not confident this will last once travel restrictions are lifted. Staycations can be incredible but for those fortunate to have the means to travel abroad every year, staycations are unlikely to become a tradition.
Does this mean the problems will disappear though? Unlikely. Overcrowding, as just one, is always an issue in the summer months for places attracting tourists. Areas like the Brecon Beacons and those Luca has highlighted often become overwhelmed very quickly with an influx of visitors.
So what can we do about it? Throwing money into these areas is an option. And yes it might help in the short term. But a change in attitudes and behaviour is likely to have a larger impact. But of course, this is harder to achieve and must be measured carefully alongside possible detrimental effects on local economies and the environment.
It’s certainly a tricky one.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.
I’m Abi! I am a liberal, political enthusiast from the Welsh valleys. Since I was young, I have been captivated by politics. I used to spend so much time watching the morning news before school, and have paid close attention to political campaigns for as long as I can remember. It was a lot later that I decided I wanted to pursue politics academically. Now, I have just finished my second year studying Politics and International Relations at the University of Exeter.