2009 saw the fastest drop in Brits travelling abroad recorded since 1970s
by Dinah Hatch
The number of trips made by Brits to foreign countries fell at the fastest rate
since the 1970s in 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics.
It recorded 58.6 million trips, compared to 69 million in 2008, and says the
fall was mirrored by foreign visitors coming to Britain too, although not by as
much (a drop from 31.1 million to 29.9 million).
ONS says the plummeting figures follows years of steady growth both into and
out of the UK. Visits abroad have grown by 4% on average per year in the past
25 years and visits to the UK have grown at 3.2% on average.
But business travel really suffered in 2009. A whopping 23% less visits were
made by UK residents abroad for business purposes in 2009 compared to the previous
year while 19% less visits were made into the UK from abroad.
Meanwhile, there was a drop of 15% in visits made from the UK abroad for holiday
reasons and a drop of 6.5% for visiting friends and relatives.
However, holiday-specific trips to the UK by overseas visitors rose in 2009,
by 0.5 million from 10.9m in 2008 to 11.4m in 2009.
Little surprise, then, that Brits spent less abroad in 2009. We spent £5.1 billion
less in 2009 despite the fact that a Brit’s average length of stay abroad has
extended from 9.9 nights in 2007 to 10.5 nights in 2009.
Earnings from money spent by visitors from abroad coming to the UK rose, however,
from £16.3 billion to £16.6 billion.
The ONS says London remains the most popular city to visit by foreigners, followed
by Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingam, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol, Oxford and Cambridge.
The other way, not many countries saw a rise un visits from Brits.
Mexico suffered a 41% fall in visits but Egypt, Jamaica and Lithuania saw rises.
That said, the combined visits to France and Spain, although they did not grow,
still amount to 21.3 million of the total 58.6 million visits abroad that Brits
The ONS report is not yet publicly available
Number of family holidays abroad plummets by 10million as staycations soar
Britons went on ten million fewer trips abroad last year as the recession hit
foreign exchange rates.
Families and businesses saved £5.1billion by cutting 15 per cent of foreign visits,
the biggest annual fall since the 1970s.
For many, the deciding factor was the fall in the value of the pound against
the euro and the dollar, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Popular: More and more families are staying in the UK and visiting home tourist
spots such as St Ives in Cornwall
Many will have opted for a holiday in Britain – nicknamed the ‘staycation’ –
Visitors to the most popular foreign destination, Spain, fell by 2.2million to
about 11.5million last year.
Other hotspots to see big drops included France, which was down 1.1million visitors
to 9.8million, Italy, down 760,000 to 2.6million, and Portugal, down 720,000 to
The most dramatic change was the 41 % drop in visitors to Mexico after it was identified as the source of the global swine flu epidemic.
Those who did go overseas found prices for meals, car hire and suntan lotion
so high that they reduced their spending, the 2009 Travel Trends study for the
Britons made 58.6million visits abroad last year, down 10.4million from 2008,
the survey shows.
Spending overseas by families and businessmen fell by £5.1billion to £31.7billion.
People are increasingly putting together their own travel plans rather than opting
for package holidays, which were down from 41 per cent of visits abroad in 2007
to 38 per cent.
Trips to Spain have been falling steadily since 2006, and separate research from Co- operative
Travel predicts that Mediterranean resorts will no longer top the destination
league table by the end of 2011.
It believes that they will be overtaken by those in the ‘Mett’ – Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.
Co-op spokesman Trevor Davis said: ‘Increased capacity to these destinations
and the high cost of the euro have contributed to a significant rise in bookings.
‘If these trends continue, it will be the biggest change in booking patterns
since the boom of the package holiday in the 1970s.’
The ONS figures showed that Egypt and Jamaica both posted a 13% increase in British visitors last year.
There was also a rise in trips to some other Caribbean islands and Sri Lanka.
Foreign tourists to Britain fell 2million last year – 6.3 per cent – to 29.9
The drop was the same as when the foot and mouth disease outbreak caused chaos
in the tourism trade in 2001.