Latest consumer spending figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal UK households spent over £175.4bn on hotels and restaurants in 2023, as the holiday industry rebounded from Covid. The figures reveal a rise of almost 6% on 2022’s spend of £165.7bn.

Brits also splashed £21.8bn on UK-based tourist activities, up from £16.7bn in 2022. It wasn’t only hotels that benefitted from last year’s ‘staycation’ bug. Last year, they also spent £38.3bn on holiday accommodation, such as holiday lets. That was up 6.7% from 2022’s £35.9bn.

While these record figures eclipse even the peak pre-Covid year of 2019, and are encouraging results for Britain’s tourist trade, the sharp rise in spending is also causing some concern. “It’s really great to see Britain’s hard- pressed hotel and tourism industries bounce back from the horrific impact of Covid,” says Lily Smith, a travel expert from the specialist accommodation finder UniversityRooms.

“The amount Brits spent on UK hotels and restaurants plummeted from a height of £144bn in pre-Covid 2019 to £88bn in 2020 – a collapse of nearly 40% – so damaging was the impact of the virus. “Similarly, spending on other accommodation fell from £31.9bn in 2019 to £15.4bn in 2020 as Covid took a grip.”

Looking at these ONS figures, it’s little wonder that many Brits, who want to enjoy seeing new parts of their own country, are now thinking twice. Some Brits clearly feel overseas holidays already represent better value than holidaying in the UK. “We spent £77.9bn on foreign holidays last year, another new record and up significantly from £66.8bn in 2022,” says Lily.

“Clearly, Brits on a budget need to think beyond traditional hotels and holiday accommodation to visit some of our most popular holiday spots. That’s why an increasing number of us are planning to stay in vacant university rooms for our next holiday. “That’s a clever call, as many universities offer rooms that are great value, centrally located and are still readily available to book for the peak summer season.

Best of all, you can stay in them even if you are not a student. Some universities are a destination in their own right. It’s possible to stay in rooms in historic locations such as Oriel and Magdalen colleges in Oxford. Similarly, you can have rooms dating back centuries in Corpus Christi or have breakfast or brunch in the dramatic Gothic dining Hall at Kings in Cambridge. A night’s stay in Magdalen college can cost as little as £55, dependent on date.