Winning the Hearts & Wallets of the UK

Mustard’s David Hickson decodes travel and leisure behaviours through 2023 and beyond.

Time and money are two of the most precious commodities for UK households. What does this mean for the UK leisure sector, one where consumer spending is (rightly or wrongly) often considered as discretionary?

The sector has to keep embracing up-to-date consumer and market intelligence to remain at the forefront of what are exceptionally crowded consideration sets, and so earlier this year, Mustard set out to capture a deep and meaningful understanding of people’s leisure behaviours, attitudes, hopes and aspirations.

We conducted a survey with a sample of n=638 UK consumers aged 18+ to identify what different audiences are prioritising. We have analysed the findings to help the sector find solutions for building on the expected “bounce-back” from Covid, with an offer aligned to new consumer priorities. Most importantly, the sector has to build resilience to the latest crisis- inflation and the cost-of-living.

Here’s the story so far…

Post Covid behaviours have stuck. 

The pandemic induced a seismic shift in people’s attitudes to nature. Successive lockdowns inspired more people and new audiences to enjoy the countryside and the great outdoors, invoking new and renewed interest in UK National Parks as destinations. (Further good news as well for the ‘green lungs of the nation’, with £4.4m of government funding being provided to the ten National Park Authorities earlier this year).

The cost of living and inflationary pressures are impacting hugely on visitor spontaneity. 

This is most prevalent amongst Gen-Z and Gen-Y who are adopting more cautious and thoughtful approaches to their leisure activities. “How badly do I / we want to visit XYZ” is the question they are CONSTANTLY asking themselves.

UK consumers are hugely reluctant to compromise on their holiday time and memory making.

Concerns around the price of holidays and days out is lower than daily expenditures (such as groceries, energy bills, etc.), but is MORE of a worry than attending specific events.

Despite this backdrop of uncertainty and worry, days out and mini-breaks are being PLANNED and TAKEN.

20% more holidays were planned and taken in 2023, compared with 2022.

Generational differences are becoming increasingly evident.

Younger audiences are actively seeking deals, discounts and vouchers, prioritising value for money. Meanwhile, older generations are opting to save on travel costs by staying closer to home.

Experience is everything.

The craving for multi-sensory, immersive, and interactive experiences continue to grow, especially among younger audiences. Consumers are increasingly looking for EVIDENCE of these offerings before deciding where to spend their leisure time.

“Set-jetting” has very much arrived.

Screen tourism is thriving, with 70% of Gen-Z and Millennials inspired to visit destinations featured in TV shows, news sources or films. This trend is here to stay, and presents a unique opportunity for attractions to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways, building lasting relationships based on shared experiences.

The desire for digital detox remains high.

However, the increased number of individuals wanting to “switch off” when on holiday presents both opportunities AND challenges for attractions. While technology can manage and enhance visitor experiences, and support research and education, it can also lead to the erosion of solitude and tranquillity, disrupt wildlife, and create conflicts between technology users and those seeking a more immersive “natural” experience.

So what?

Perma-crises over the last 5 years have impacted motivations, priorities and intentions. In spite of the challenges being faced, there are opportunities to be grasped and reasons to be positive.

Yes, we have seen that UK consumers are worried by the economic climate. Some, in fact, are terrified.

BUT they ARE still doing things. And they are currently planning to do MORE things.

Each attraction has to be dialled-in to what precise needs that consumers have related to that specific day-out or visitor experience. They value their holidays and days out more than ever, and expectations are on the up. Attractions MUST be mindful of not trying to be all things to all people, and diluting the essence of what the visit is all about. One size will not fit all.

If you’d like a copy of the full report or want to discuss the implications of our findings for your organisation, please email

Written by David Hickson
Posted on 16th Nov, 2023