The environmental impact of UK ‘staycations’ in Hastings

While the pandemic continues to delay the economic recovery of many UK tourist destinations, the impact it will have on traveller behaviour may
benefit seaside towns such as Hastings and St Leonards in years to come – and not just their economies.

If, as predicted, budget airlines continue to collapse, the average price of international trips will rise. This will force travellers to take fewer flights and make domestic travel more appealing for many. Domestic tourism was already on the rise before the outbreak of coronavirus, with the UK seeing a 6% increase in domestic holidays between 2018 and 2019. And, although not expected to reach 2019 levels (when the domestic market was worth £91.6bn), VisitBritain has forecast a 2021 recovery of £61.7bn in domestic tourism spending; up 79% compared to 2020.

Fewer flights have seen East Sussex’s air pollution levels drop
PICTURE: Johannes Plenio

The global reintroduction of travel corridors and quarantines is also likely to make the comparatively simpler UK ‘staycation’ more attractive. The day after the government’s roadmap announcement, for instance, the value of summer bookings at UK hotels rose 38%, according to Avvio. Despite only a tentative reopening date of 17th May, staff at the Royal Victoria Hotel in St Leonards told HIP they are “‘as busy”’ taking bookings as they were in 2019, while one local Airbnb host told us she was “‘all booked up”’ for the summer.

But it’s a shift in tourist behaviour that could bring long-lasting environmental change to the region. The travel industry is adapting to new demands from eco-conscious travellers with the onus on sustainable holidays, both budget and luxury. Plastic-free policies, sustainable in-room products and food and drink sourced locally are all examples of how business owners in the hospitality sector are appealing to an increasingly eco-friendly clientele. Already pivoting in this direction, The Telegraph’s travel section, Condé Nast Traveller and others spent the start of the year heavily promoting their ‘top sustainable destinations 2021’.

Hastings is set to see an increase in tourism
PICTURE: Mike Turton

The mass grounding of flights during the peak of the pandemic saw Co2 emissions from aviation reduce by up to 60%, according to the Global Carbon Project. With fewer flights and tougher environ-mental policies on European airlines after restrictions are lifted later this year, con-centration levels of air pollution – which are frequently higher in the south and east of the UK – are predicted to remain lower than they were in the pre-Covid era.

So, fewer flights will have a positive impact on the air purity in East Sussex, and if the region can respond to the demands of a more environ-mentally savvy tourist base, the resultant rise in domestic travel could also benefit a town such as Hastings, where tourism provides around a fifth of all
jobs. Together, cleaner air and more sustainable business practices can make living and working in Hastings more appealing for all.


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