UK domestic interrail pass could spark rail travel boom for summer 2021, says GlobalData

Travel by rail was already popular for UK domestic tourists pre-pandemic as 16 million UK domestic tourists traveled by rail in 2019. However, this dropped 60% year-over-year (YoY) in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures. According to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, this could increase 105.7% YoY in 2021. The launch of an interrail pass allowing flexible travel options across the UK could prove to be profitable for the UK’s domestic tourism industry.

In partnership with the National Lottery and the UK Government, a rail pass is being developed for interrail travel throughout the UK. Since COVID-19 travel restrictions mean international travel options are limited for UK tourists this summer, domestic getaways are in high demand.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Traveling 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 a UK tourist regardless of age, income or background. An interrail trip around the UK could tap into consumers’ wish lists.”

Several factors mean the launch of the UK’s domestic interrail pass could prove to be profitable this summer. Sustainability is now a greater factor in travel decisions and traveling by rail instead of flying or driving is a more responsible form of travel. For 5% of UK respondents in a GlobalData survey*, reducing environmental footprint is now a top priority. For 28% it is more important than prior to the pandemic and for 51% it is as important as before. The quest to become more environmentally friendly could see more UK tourists opt for rail transport when traveling domestically.

Rail travel also provides an opportunity to visit multiple locations. A live GlobalData poll** found that day trips are losing their popularity. Only 11% of respondents preferred length of stay was a day trip, while stays from 4-6 nights (28%) and 10+ nights (26%) were the most popular. With international travel very limited for summer 2021, a prolonged staycation could be desirable for UK tourists.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “Rail travel also holds strong experiential value. Themed train excursions can be planned, homing in on a 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, particularly among millennials.

“In the UK there is clearly market opportunity as there has never been a form of interrail package promoted by the government for domestic tourism. GlobalData’s forecasts suggest inbound tourism to the UK will not recover fully until 2024. Therefore, it is understandable that domestic tourism remains the key focus. For this to work successfully, collaboration will be key among tour operators, industry experts and destination management organizations (DMOs). These should be working to collaborate as there is clearly market opportunity. If successful, this rail pass could see UK travelers holidaying domestically even when restrictions end.”

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