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SumUp: As Half-Term Approaches Could Fintech Help the British Staycation Become Popular?

As flight corridors change, quarantine and testing have become routine but data suggests that for some Brits, despite the weather, it is more convenient just to stay at home. As another half-term looms ahead, there is evidence that the UK public is already voting with its feet, as the number of domestic transactions soared during the summer.

Alex von Schirmeister is the Executive Vice President for Europe at SumUp, he believes that financial technology could help improve the potential of a seaside staycation in the UK.

Alexander von Schirmeister, Executive Vice President for Europe at SumUp

“There’s nothing like the fresh sea air”, goes the saying, and for thousands of families this October half term that air will likely be found in Canvey over the Costa Del Sol.

With familiar restrictions currently returning as we continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, and quarantine rules in place for those returning from many overseas countries, many British holidaymakers will undoubtedly be looking to holiday in the UK during this upcoming half term.

The UK’s coastal resorts and village retreats had fallen out of favour due to the advent of cheap flights abroad. As holidaymakers flocked to warmer climes, traditionally popular resorts suffered dilapidation and neglect, while many local heritage and entertainment buildings have been demolished to make way for new builds.

Independent local businesses have felt the knock-on effects of this, with fewer punters to entertain at once-popular amusement arcades, pubs, museums, campsites and beachfronts.

But the new travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have hastened the calls for a much-needed revival of the sceptred isle’s seaside. While guidelines for travelling abroad are constantly subject to change as the situation develops, the evidence from our data for tourist businesses in the UK points towards many choosing a domestic holiday this October, following on the trend from a summer of ‘staycations’.

According to our data, between the summer holiday dates of 22nd July and 12th August, 93% of transactions across the UK were made with domestic cards. Contactless payments in coastal towns such as Tenby, Hastings, Dartmouth and Filey accounted for 94% of all payments made – demonstrating how socially distant payments are having the desired effect of keeping small businesses running throughout the pandemic.

We’re already starting to see the positive effects of the staycation mentality. According to a number of leading booking websites there was a huge spike in bookings at hotels, B&Bs, and campsites in the UK, following the announcement that they could reopen on 4th July.

The UK tourism sector saw an increase of 180% in transactions in the first week of July compared with the previous week, while the rise was 102% in France and 31% in Italy. At the same time, the transaction count for hotels grew 173%. Bars and clubs have seen a particularly spectacular bounceback – increasing 332% upon reopening.

Despite a difficult few months, many of these sectors are performing better than our pre-COVID projections for the summer of 2020, showing that many have more than stepped up to the challenging circumstances. The increase in transactions is a positive sign, though the situation is still hard for many small business owners.

We’re in constant contact with the network of small businesses who rely on our technology, and it’s heartening to see them experiencing a boom.

In the small coastal town of Bridlington in East Yorkshire, the Old Town Gallery has seen an increase in the number of tourists over the last three or four years, but they’ve really seen much higher footfall in the early summer compared to the same timeframe in previous years, and certainly more than they would normally expect prior to the school summer holidays.

They implemented a range of safety measures, including perspex cough screens at the desk, hand sanitiser at entrances and card payment points, sanitiser wipes for their SumUp card machine, a five-point instruction sheet, optional free masks and gloves, and a one-way circulation route for the restricted number of customers allowed at any given time.

It’s extremely encouraging to see businesses flourish while implementing and maintaining safety procedures. And while the steps towards normality need to be tentative, both businesses and holidaymakers can remain safe if they stay vigilant, follow guidelines, and pay safely. Fintech companies can step up here and play a key role, since our hardware solutions can help businesses maintain health and safety guidelines.

Contactless payment options should be made available to as many small businesses as possible. Since the lockdown began, many have opted to go completely cashless, including a large number of those that serve tourists – cafes and restaurants, retailers, and taxi services. Avoiding queues outside restaurants and museums was key this summer, with many businesses moving their reservation services online and to social media.

Fintechs can work alongside governments and organisations to make the transition to cashless payments smoother – for even the smallest amounts. We all have to play our part in combating the pandemic and reviving the economy, and we are ready to step up to that challenge.

With October half-term approaching, this challenge becomes ever more pressing.

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  • Gina is a fintech journalist (BA, MA) who works across broadcast and print. She has written for most national newspapers and started her career in BBC local radio.

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