The 2018 consumer economy: tourism and leisure trends

A recent report released by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors provides an interesting snapshot into the 2018/19 consumer economy. Last month we covered the retail industry. Here we provide a summary of the tourism and leisure sector.


Making up the second component of the consumer sector, tourism has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in terms of employment since 2010.

Growth strategies

Growth in the tourism industry can be sustained into the future by making visitors with high spending potential feel welcome. This can be done by employing people in hotels and restaurants who speak the languages of visitors. Making efforts to cater to different tastes and preferences, such as considering particular religious needs, will also make Britain feel more open to visitors.

Local governments should also be investing in displaying online information in many languages to advertise the attractions on offer in the area, as well as in infrastructure to support tour parties – especially in regions which currently struggle to attract as many visitors.

Another key way of improving Britain’s openness to visitors is having enough capacity to enable them to travel and stay here; for example, through creating new air routes between the UK and emerging markets.


The leisure industry is also key to providing entertainment for visitors to Britain and residents alike. In 2016, the UK leisure industry was estimated to be worth £117 billion.

Health and fitness

Consumers are increasingly reporting that they are spending more of their income on going to the gym and playing sports, so local governments and private providers should be focusing on providing more facilities for this.

There has been significant growth in the leisure facilities sector over the last eight years, with 272 new fitness facilities opening in the UK in 2017. Increased interest in the fitness and health industry have been a driving force behind this growth, as 15% of people are members of a gym. There is also an increasing focus from business in providing workplace facilities, such as onsite gyms and clinics to ensure their whole workforce’s well-being.

Data is transforming health and fitness. At an individual level, technology-savvy customers are using smartphone applications and wearables to monitor their own health and, as a result, are finding themselves more and more engaged with their own health journey. This represents an opportunity to integrate care and fitness and equipment into a seamless offering for prevention, as well as diagnosis and treatment.

Food and drink

Total spending on food and drink, including purchases for household supplies, plateaued between 2013 and 2017. This is in part due to the fierce competition between supermarkets leading to lower prices for consumers.

As income rises, so does the amount spent on eating and drinking in bars and restaurants. There is much more growth in the restaurants and bars sector than in the sector for food which is consumed in the home.

As a result of the growth in this sector, competition is tight in the food service industry, and providers are having to adapt to stay relevant:

  1. Instagrammable food: Making food look good is as important as the taste for the Instagram generation, with many under 30 year olds receiving recommendations for restaurants from social media images.
  2. Mixing retail with selling food and drink: Clothes retailers and smaller stores are hosting pop-ups offering coffee and snacks. It is this form of differentiation that keeps the food service industry relevant in a period when everyone can easily and more conveniently order restaurant food to their home.
  3. Technology: Bars and restaurants need to integrate technology into the experience in order to stay competitive. Giving customers the opportunity to pay via an app, or order on an iPad at their table speeds up the service and keeps the food and drink industry up-to-date with the latest service sector developments.
  4. Influencers: commercial partnerships with high-profile individuals can create conversations with a targeted demographic and help to differentiate brands from their competitors.

If you would like further advice on any of the above, please get in touch on 01903 234094.