An extensive look over past 20 years recently conducted by the UK shows, convincingly, that while British travelers are forgoing the traditional two-week holiday and booze cruises (it used to be popular to make the short voyage from the UK across the English Channel, stopping long enough to make purchases of untaxed alcohol and tobacco in France.) Also, British travelers were barely familiar with Internet travel purchases.
Following are some of the highlights from the ONS 20-year look back.
Brits are taking more holidays. In 2016, UK residents went on more than 45 million foreign holidays, up from 27 million in 1996. This is a 68 percent increase in the number of holidays, while the UK population increased by just12 percent in the same period. However, the total would likely be even greater were it not for the devastating impact on travel by Brits of Great Recession of 2008-2009.
Total Number of Holidays Overseas by UK residents
1996 to 2016
One of the biggest changes noticed by ONS over the last 20 years is the marked decline in the popularity of 2-week holidays and the rise of short breaks. The week-long break is a lot more popular than before, and there’s also been an increase in the number of holidays lasting 10 nights.
Duration of holidays overseas by UK residents,
1996 and 2016
One of the most likely explanations for UK residents going on more, shorter, holidays, according to ONS, is the growth of the budget airlines. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the European Council relaxed the rules to create a common aviation area across Europe, allowing low-cost carriers including EasyJet and Ryanair to enter the market. Between 1996 and 2015 (the most recent figures available from the Civil Aviation Authority), passenger numbers at UK airports increased by 85%, from 135 million to 251 million – continuing a long-term trend. And according to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization in 2003, “around 50 percent of the traffic on low-cost carriers is newly generated” – which means half of the people flying on budget airlines in Europe weren’t making those journeys before.
Top 10 destinations for UK holidaymakers: One constant over the past 20 years has been the enduring popularity of the USA as the number one long-haul overseas destination for UK travelers. Spain and France have remained the top two international destinations overall, while Belgium and Turkey have dropped out of the Top Ten list. Interestingly, cruising is now on the list. It is four times as popular as it was 20 years ago. ONS speculates that this “could be due to an ageing population, with increasing numbers of older people in the population – but cruise operators are also trying to extend their appeal to younger holidaymakers too.”
Top 10 Destinations for UK resident Holidaymakers
1996 and 2016