ONS reveals data on UK holiday habits – then and now


  • Author: Statistics Views (source: Office for National Statistics)
  • Date: 09 August 2017
  • Copyright: Image appears courtesy of Getty Images

A lot has changed in our ways in 20 years when it comes to planning and going on holiday. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) compared data from their International Passenger Survey in 1996 and 2016 to uncover the biggest differences in our holiday habits between the 1990s and now.

thumbnail image: ONS reveals data on UK holiday habits – then and now

One of the main changes is that UK tourists are going on more but shorter holidays these days.

In 2016, UK residents went on more than 45 million foreign holidays, up from 27 million in 1996. While there has been a 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.

One of the most likely explanations for UK residents going on more, shorter, holidays is the growth of the budget airlines. Between 1996 and 2015 passenger numbers at UK airports increased by 85%, from 135 million to 251 million and according to the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation in 2003, “around 50% of the traffic on low-cost carriers is newly generated”.

UK residents are also making far fewer day-trips abroad than they did 20 years ago, International Passenger survey shows. This could be because many of these visits were “booze cruises” – journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes – which are no longer as cost-efficient as they used to be.

Comparing the most popular holiday destinations in 1996 and 2016, not a lot has changed at the top of the chart: Spain and France are still among the most popular places to visit. Germany has now joined the top 10 destinations for UK holidaymakers, and another new entry is cruising – which is according to ONS now four times as popular as it was 20 years ago. Further down the rankings, we have The United Arab Emirates, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Iceland.

Only five countries with significant visitor numbers suffered a decline in the numbers of holidaymakers. The countries that saw the biggest falls were those that have experienced terrorist incidents and security concerns in recent years: Turkey, Egypt, Kenya and Tunisia. France, while still being popular the number of holidays by UK residents has decreased by 9%.

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