The Mental Health Benefits Of Planning A Holiday
Georgina Willcox | 06 October 2021
Research Shows Planning A Holiday Helps Your Mental Health
October 10th is World Mental Health Day, it helps to raise awareness of mental health around the world and inspire people, not only to improve their own mental health but support others around them and within their communities who are in need. At Travel Department we love the joy and satisfaction we bring to all our customers by creating experiences and memories that last a lifetime. From zipping up your suitcase when you are finally packed to the instant relaxation on arrival at your destination; few things leave us feeling refreshed and revitalised, like a quick getaway. Unfortunately, with the pandemic changing our travel plans, we’ve had much less of an opportunity to get the feel-good factor that comes with a break. However, new research proves that planning a holiday alone is good for your mental health. This is great news across the board as we recently carried out some surveys which show that people are looking forward to travelling again. So now, regardless of the situation, preparing for that break is a positive act of wellbeing.
Sara Zimmerman, CEO of Travel Department, said that there's been a significant uplift in holiday bookings and that customers are becoming more comfortable about international travel:
"Travel Department is delighted to be welcoming customers back and we share their excitement to travel again. We actively listened to our customers throughout the pandemic and understand that some people may have lingering anxieties about travel so we’ve gone the extra mile to make sure we take care of everything. We have created dedicated pages on our website outlining travel requirements by country and the steps we take to keep our customers safe while abroad. Once on holiday, our guides are ready and waiting to greet our customers again and not only to share their wealth of knowledge and passion for each destination but to provide practical information on local customs and practices. This new research just confirms what we have long since suspected: holidays are great for our wellbeing, and not just while we’re away, but from the moment we start planning. Many of our customers are already benefitting with very strong advance bookings for next year, and we look forward to welcoming many more back over the coming weeks and months."
These signs of holiday travel returning to normality are also to be seen in Italy, one of the most popular holiday destinations for the UK and Ireland at the moment. Explora S.p.A who helps promote the touristic offering of the Lombardy region, confirms that there are evident signs of recovery in the Lombardy region. “European travellers have shown a tendency towards proximity tourism, showing a keen interest in the rediscovery of small villages, mountains and lesser known tourist destinations,” says Explora. “We are seeing promising signs of a return to holiday travel, with trends growing for both Italian and foreign tourists.”
The Research Findings
Firstly, let’s look at the research around what that holiday prep can do for you. Studies from Cornwall University show that planning a holiday can improve your mental health, as well as making us feel better about our social and economic means. According to Jessica De Bloom, Academy Research Fellow in the University of Groningen, holidays not only benefit people’s health but make them happier as well. The benefits of a well-needed trip away don’t just come into effect once the holiday has begun, but can be seen as soon as you start researching accommodation, scrolling through Instagram hashtags or booking your annual leave from work.
These results correlate strongly with Dr Gerard Flaherty in Galway, Ireland, a world expert in the emerging field of Travel Psychiatry. Recently appointed as President-Elect of the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM), he says, “The psychological benefits of international travel, especially for tourism purposes, have been largely ignored until relatively recently in the travel medicine literature.’’ In a recent Editorial to the Journal of Travel Medicine, Dr Flaherty states that “The fear engendered by this pandemic will eventually be replaced by optimism and hope for our future. Achieving this mindset will summon our collective reserves of fortitude and resilience. Psychological resilience during the COVID-19 shelterin-place period has been shown to be related to higher levels of exercise, sleep quality, social support and spirituality.”
This sentiment can be seen in our recent surveys with some fresh optimism for the return of the travel industry. In June of this year, we carried out two travel surveys, one in Ireland and one in the UK. We had over 2,000 participants in the Irish one and over 300 in the UK survey. It’s clear the pandemic has impacted people’s attitudes and actions towards travel. Many participants share a feeling that life is short, and they have the desire to see more of the world, with some being ready to travel.
In terms of numbers, 39% of the respondents to the Irish survey say the pandemic has made them want to visit more places on their travel list. Meanwhile, 71% of respondents from the UK survey feel that they are “losing time” at this stage of their life by not being able to travel. With the restrictions meaning less time for actual holidays, many have spent a lot of time researching various destinations to visit in the future.
So, where do people want to go? Sticking with the UK survey results, top of the list for where people are looking forward to holidaying in is Italy, followed by Spain, other European destinations, and elsewhere in the UK. However, some hesitancy remains about long-distance travel and results from the Irish survey list India, China and South Africa as the top three destinations people are least eager to travel to at this time.
Travel Is Returning
Travel Department are already seeing a strong end to 2021 sales with hundreds of passengers already traveling again across European destinations. Bookings for the first half of 2022 are already well ahead of expectations. In terms of bookings completed for the following year, there is more than a 20% increase compared to 2019 numbers, which shows how optimistic travellers are to holiday abroad in 2022.
From our surveys, 16% of the UK respondents plan to book a flight within the next 6 to 12 months. 32% are unsure when, but they would like to, and 29% are not planning to book a flight soon. Meanwhile, 66% of the Irish participants believe that travel would return to pre-covid levels in either the first or second half of 2022. This shows that people are not only optimistic that travel will return, but also willing and waiting to take overseas holidays in the not-so-distant future.
Whether you can travel sooner or later, you don’t have to wait to get the positive benefits because planning your holiday alone is a great help. Nothing can stop you from doing the research and preparing for your next holiday getaway. So we say, get planning, as a positive step for your mental health and you’ll be one step closer to safely ticking that destination off your travel bucket list.
- Gerard Flaherty, Vedang Vyas, Ferdia Browne (2021), Quo vadis? Reflections on the future direction of travel medicine practice and research, International Journal of Science, Medicine and Education
- Gerard Flaherty, Nizrull Nasir (2020), Reiseangst: travel anxiety and psychological resilience during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Travel Medicine
- Jessica de Bloom (2012), How do vacations affect workers’ health and well-being? Vacation (after-) effects and the role of vacation activities and experiences
- Jessica de Bloom, Jeroen Nawijn, Sabine Geurts, Ulla Kinnunen & Kalevi Korpela (2016), Holiday travel, staycations, and subjective well-being, Journal of Sustainable Tourism
- www.goodnewsnetwork.org/planning-vacation-boosts-mental-health/ (University Cornwall Study)
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