UK Holidays by Rail Market Report 2022
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“Consumer interest in overseas rail travel is rising, but growth has been inhibited in the past by lack of product supply. Plans by Spanish rail operator, Renfe, to launch services…

UK Holidays by Rail Market Report 2022

£ 1,995 (Excl.Tax)


The UK Rail Holiday Market Report identifies consumers’ attitudes towards rail holidays, rail travel’s recovery post-pandemic and the impact of climate change on the future of holiday travel. This report covers the holidays by rail market size, market forecast, market segmentation and industry trends for the rail holiday market in the UK.

Current Market Landscape 

Despite the COVID-19 setback, the rail holiday market is on the rise as travellers are becoming more adventurous. Half of Eurostar holiday passengers over the past five years travelled to one of the core Eurostar destinations and then took another train service further afield – for example, from Paris to the south of France or Spain. This group is important for the future growth in rail holidays since they are the most committed to using the train beyond a single core city destination.


Market Share and Key Industry Trends

The holiday market is expected to bounce back from the impact of COVID-19. Still, the rate of recovery is likely to be slowed by the UK’s escalating cost of living crisis, and the deteriorating economic outlook triggered by the Ukraine conflict. However, there is considerable pent-up demand, especially for holidays abroad, including rail travel. The relative affluence of Eurostar travellers and customers of specialist rail touring products should help to cushion these markets.

Beyond the increased financial pressure on households, the biggest challenge to growth in holidays by rail is the traditional dominance of other modes – car travel in the domestic market and air travel in the overseas market.


  • 11% of adults have taken a train to a holiday destination abroad.
  • 65% of adults who used Eurostar used a direct to Paris service.
  • 58% of adults would consider taking a train to get to a holiday destination in the UK.
  • 32% of adults would consider taking a train to get to a destination abroad.


Future Market Trends in the Holidays by Rail Market

Environmental anxieties are influencing UK travel trends. In the longer term, the growth prospects for UK holidays by rail market are strong, driven by rising environmental concerns about the impact of air travel, and a dislike of the airport or airline experience. There are growing opportunities for rail travel brands to offer value-added, ‘premium slow travel’ services, including luxury train journeys, long-distance sleeper trains, and multi-destination rail touring packages.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our UK Holiday and Travel market research.


Quickly Understand

  • Previous experience and future interest in rail travel for holidays in the UK and abroad.
  • Market growth and trends prior to and during COVID-19, and prospects for recovery and long-term growth.
  • Consumer attitudes towards holiday travel by rail, and interest in specialist products and services for holidays by rail.
  • The impact of the climate emergency on the future of holiday travel, including consumer attitudes.
  • The impact of the cost of living crisis on travel modal choices.
  • Key operators, brands and providers in the holidays by rail market.


Covered in this Report

Product Types: Passenger-only trail services; domestic overnight trips, interconnecting services, multi-destination rail touring holidays.

Brands:  Nationalrail.co.uk, Trainline.com, Mytrainticket.co.uk, Railcard.co.uk, Transport for London (TfL), Great Bristish Railways, Network Rail, Eurostar, Le Shuttle, Interrail/Eurail, Seat61.com, Great Rail Journeys, Ffestiniog Travel, Railtrail, Planet Rail, Tailor Made Rail, Byway Travel, Railbookers, SNCF.

Expert Analysis from a Specialist in the Field

This report, written by John Worthington, a leading senior analyst in the Travel sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Consumer interest in overseas rail travel is rising, but growth has been inhibited in the past by lack of product supply. Plans by Spanish rail operator, Renfe, to launch services via the Channel Tunnel could create new competition in the market. A growing number of tour operators are developing rail alternatives to their traditional holiday flight packages, and new specialist rail holiday brands are emerging.

John Worthington
Senior Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Market context
    • Products covered in this Report
  2. Executive Summary

    • The market
    • Rail travel accounted for an estimated 10% of domestic holidays and 7% of holidays abroad pre-COVID.
    • Eurostar passenger numbers had reached record levels
    • The pandemic has had a heavy impact on holiday rail travel…
    • …And the cost of living crisis will slow the pace of recovery
    • …But longer-term prospects are strong
    • Companies and brands
    • UK rail shake-up could create new opportunities for leisure travel
    • Eurostar/Thalys merger and potential competition from Renfe could boost overseas rail travel
    • Booking European rail travel is complex but has become easier in recent years
    • Specialist rail holiday tour operators
    • I did it Byway
    • Sleeper revival, low cost/luxury, staycation rail passes and rail alternatives to flight packages
    • The consumer
    • Three in ten consumers have holidayed by rail in the UK and one in ten abroad in the past five years
      • Figure 1: Use of transport modes for holidays in the past five years, 2022
    • Amsterdam route is as popular as Brussels for Eurostar holiday travellers
      • Figure 2: Destinations visited by Eurostar travellers, 2022
    • Half of Eurostar holiday travelers take onward rail connections
      • Figure 3: Onward travel by Eurostar travellers, 2022
    • Future interest points to large growth potential
      • Figure 4: Future interest in travelling by rail for holidays, 2022
    • Time travellers
      • Figure 5: Length of time people are willing to travel by rail for holidays, 2022
    • Rail holiday travel makes the journey seem ‘part of the holiday’
    • Those who don’t use train for holidays have negative perceptions on value for money
      • Figure 6: Attitudes towards travelling on holiday by train, 2022
    • Guilty fliers and train braggers
      • Figure 7: Attitudes towards travelling on holiday by train, 2022
    • Strong demand for value-added rail holiday products
      • Figure 8: Interest in luxury/long-distance/stopover rail trips, 2022
    • ‘All you can eat’ holiday rail travel
      • Figure 9: Interest in rail passes and rail package holidays, 2022
  3. Issues and Insights

    • Flight-free February?
    • Age of the train
    • There are growing opportunities in the independent rail touring space…
    • …And for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ bucket-list rail expeditions
  4. Market Size and Trend Indications

    • Rail travel accounted for one in ten UK holidays pre-COVID
      • Figure 10: Estimated transport modal share of domestic holiday trips prior to COVID-19
    • Domestic rail holidays have been hit harder by the pandemic…
    • …And attracting back travellers is a challenge for train operators
    • 7% of holidays abroad were made through the Tunnel pre-COVID…
      • Figure 11: Volume of overseas holidays by transport mode, 2010-19
    • …And two thirds of rail holidays abroad were to France
    • Tunnel share of Dutch holidays doubled following launch of Eurostar Amsterdam route
    • Four in 10 holidays via the Tunnel were short breaks
      • Figure 12: Destination share of overseas holiday trips made via the Channel Tunnel, 2019
    • Tunnel passengers remained well under a fifth of pre-COVID levels in 2021
    • Eurostar passenger numbers reached record levels in 2019
    • But a heavy fall in city breaks has had a heavy impact in 2020-21
      • Figure 13: Eurostar passenger volumes, 2010-21
    • Future prospects/expectations
    • The short-term challenge is to recover from COVID impact
    • Restructured rail industry could create opportunities for leisure travel…
    • …But the car is likely to remain king in domestic tourism
    • Environmental concerns are leading to rising interest in overseas rail holidays
    • New growth dynamics can stimulate a market which has been constrained by supply
    • Rail share of holidays abroad is expected to increase
  5. Market Drivers

    • Cost of living crisis is likely to slow the pace of post-COVID travel recovery
      • Figure 14: Holiday booking and intentions, 2019-22
    • COVID health concerns have softened in 2022…
      • Figure 15: Level of ‘high’ concern about COVID-19 (rated 4 or 5), 2020-22
    • …But many consumers remain cautious about travel
      • Figure 16: Attitudes to travelling on holiday by public transport due to COVID-19, 2022
    • UK living standards are forecast to see their biggest fall since records began
    • Mintel’s data shows households are feeling the pinch
      • Figure 17: Impact of cost of living/Ukraine crises on consumers, 2022
    • Holiday spending will be affected but pent-up demand should help to mitigate the impact
    • Cost of living impact on rail holidays will be polarised
    • Oil price spike
      • Figure 18: European Brent crude oil monthly average spot price, 2020-22
      • Figure 19: UK average unleaded 95 Octane petrol price, 2020-22
    • Record pump prices could nudge domestic travel behaviour
    • Air fares are expected to rise…but may be delayed
    • A transformation in transport use will be needed to meet climate targets
    • Aviation was one of the fastest-growing sources of global warming pre-COVID
    • Carbon impact will be a growing influence on travel choices
      • Figure 20: CO2 emissions (kg per passenger journey) on selected routes via train, car and plane, 2022
    • Green aviation is not yet on the horizon
    • Europe is intervening to manage air travel demand…
    • …But UK policy is less clear
    • Cost pressures could mean the end of ultra-low budget air travel…
    • …But rail travel is still likely to cost more on longer distance routes
    • Holidays by rail can develop a broader value offer to compete with air
    • Eurostar/Thalys merger is back on track
    • Renfe could mount the first-ever competition to Eurostar
  6. Companies and Brands

    • Domestic holiday rail travel
    • Great British Railways
    • Overseas rail from the UK
    • Le Shuttle
    • Eurostar
    • Onward international rail travel
    • Rail Europe
    • Interrail/Eurail
    • Seat61.com
    • Rail holiday tour operators
    • Great Rail Journeys
    • Ffestiniog Travel
    • Railtrail
    • Other escorted tour operators
    • Railbookers
    • Planet Rail
    • Tailor Made Rail
    • Byway Travel
  7. Launch Activity and Innovation

    • Budget/luxury rail
    • Hotels on wheels make a comeback
    • Staycation rail pass
    • Tour operators are beginning to offer rail packages
    • Byway Travel offers dynamic packaging for rail holidays
  8. Holiday Travel – Rail versus Other Modes

    • In the past five years 29% of adults have taken the train on a UK holiday…
      • Figure 21: Use of transport modes for UK holidays in the past five years, 2022
    • …and 11% have been abroad
      • Figure 22: Use of transport modes for holidays abroad in the past five years, 2022
    • Demographics of holidays by rail
      • Figure 23: Use of transport modes for holidays in the UK and abroad in the past five years, by age group, 2022
  9. Use of Rail Travel for Holidays Abroad

    • 9% of adults have used Eurostar in the past five years
      • Figure 24: Use of rail transport modes for holidays abroad in the past five years, 2022
    • Nearly half of Eurostar travellers live in London/South East
      • Figure 25: Demographic profile of Eurostar travellers, 2022
    • Two thirds of Eurostar holidaymakers have travelled to Paris
    • Amsterdam has become nearly as popular as Brussels
      • Figure 26: Destinations visited by Eurostar travellers, 2022
    • Half of Eurostar passengers have taken onward train journeys
      • Figure 27: Onward travel by Eurostar travellers, 2022
  10. Future Interest in Holiday Rail Travel

    • Consumer interest signals growth potential for rail holidays
      • Figure 28: Future interest in travelling by rail for holidays, 2022
      • Figure 29: Future interest in travelling by rail for holidays versus experience in the past 5 years, 2022
    • Rail holidaymakers fall into three camps based on the time they are willing to travel
      • Figure 30: Length of time people are willing to travel by rail for holidays, 2022
      • Figure 31: Holiday rail traveller groups, 2022
    • Older travellers are willing to travel longest by train
      • Figure 32: Holiday rail traveller groups, by age group, 2022
  11. Attitudes Towards Holiday Rail Travel

    • Rail travel is seen as relaxing, convenient and ‘part of the holiday’
    • Value for money perception is less clear-cut…
      • Figure 33: Attitudes towards travelling on holiday by train, 2022
    • …Especially among older travellers
      • Figure 34: Agreement with the statement ’I think travelling on holiday by train is good value for money’, by age group, 2022
    • Those who already use trains for holiday travel are far more likely to see them as good value…
    • …But perceptions need to be changed among non-users
      • Figure 35: Agreement with the statement ’I think travelling on holiday by train is good value for money’, by modal groups, 2022
    • Guilty fliers and train-braggers
      • Figure 36: Environmental attitudes towards travelling on holiday by train and plane, 2022
    • Gen Z and Millennials are the most environmentally-aware travellers
      • Figure 37: Environmental attitudes towards travelling on holiday by train and plane, by generational group, 2022
    • Flexitarian flyers
  12. Future Rail Holiday Opportunities

    • Luxury on the line
    • Sleeper hit
    • Stopping off en route
      • Figure 38: Interest in luxury/long-distance/stopover rail trips, 2022
    • Holiday rail passes
      • Figure 39: Interest in buying unlimited rail travel passes, 2022
    • Multi-stop rail packages have good prospects
      • Figure 40: Interest in booking rail holiday package tours abroad, 2022
    • Specialist products highlighting comfort, romance and slow travel are most important for older rail travellers
    • Younger travellers are more likely to be motivated by a fast, efficient and eco-friendly service
    • Independent touring and Interrailing appeal across age groups
      • Figure 41: Interest in rail holiday opportunities, by age group, 2022
    • Strong interest in making iconic rail journeys
      • Figure 42: Interest in iconic long-distance rail journeys 2022
  13. Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations and Supporting Information

    • Abbreviations
    • Consumer research methodology

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