The Road to Travel: Main Holiday Destination for UK Travellers

Where Brits Travel and Why

A History of British Tourism

British people love traveling. From finding a great cup of tea to figuring out what pudding actually is, holidays are a big part of British culture. For this reason, they’re willing to put up with maddening crowds that don’t form lines, bad sunburns, and terrible customer service. To understand this, we’ll have to go back to the history of British travelers.

Early in the 18th century, doctors began to prescribe seaside vacations as good for your health. This began to make popular the concept of seaside vacations. In the late 19th century, resorts began to flourish in these seaside towns, along with attractions near these resorts. During World War II, there was a natural pause for vacationing opportunities. The war made is difficult, but as soon as the war was over, the holiday camps that had been taken over for use of the military were restored.

By the 20th century, holiday packages raised in popularity. This mean that low-income individuals could also enjoy some sun and salt water. The number of Brits on holiday during this time period increased from 4 million to 13. With the rise of the internet, holiday packages have been on the decline in favor of DIY vacations. This is because the internet makes it easy to find budget airlines, cheap hotels, etc.

Since 2008, staycations have soared in popularity. This is mostly due to the 2008 financial crisis. For those that do go abroad, shorter trips are more popular.

Where do Brits go on Holiday?

Britain is known for its rain and grey skies in the summer. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that many flee the overcast skies to sunnier parts of the country. Trends show that shorter trips, instead of longer 2-week vacations, have become the preferred form of travel ever since the 2008 financial crisis. The shorter trips normally last 3 to 4 days.

According to Travel Republic, a travel agency, 9 out of 10 Brits have traveled outside the country. In the course of a lifetime, British citizens will travel to 9 foreign countries. The numbers are shown since 2018, which factors a 37% increase since 2013, where the average number of countries a British citizen visited was 7. According to the same research study, 93% of Brits repeated a destination, going on average 10x to the same place.

However, trends seem to be shifting, because according to another 2018 poll published by the Daily Star, 60% of Brits are more likely to visit a new destination that one they have already been to. 94% of Brits have been abroad. Most British citizens are now looking for new experiences. This can be due to the rise of social media, and posts featuring fantastic adventures abroad, making it seem like this is something that’s easily accessible.

In a quick survey done by OnDevice Research, 1,000 Brits were polled regarding their summer plans. Of those, close to 60% of Brits had summer travel plans. Of those, only 8% said they couldn’t afford a vacation, and 85% of the ones that had travel plans were students.

The top 3 British holiday destination, according to various sources, are France, Spain, and Italy. Due to proximity and cheap wine and cigarette prices, France ranked as one of the best British holiday destinations. Single-day party cruises to France were on extremely popular, but since the turn of the century, the sale of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes has been banned outside of airports. This has pretty much extinguished the one-day cruises to France, and the gap between France and Spain number of travelers has come closer. Since 2014, a total of 12.2m people went to Spain.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the top 3 counties in 2015 were Spain, France, and the US, in that order. Other countries to follow were Ireland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands, Greece, and Belgium. In 2014, there were 60.1 oversea travelers, which reflects a rise of 4.1% from 2013.

The money spent on holiday travel has increased by 1 billion euro, compared to 2013. This is a 4.5% increase. Since 1994, the figure shows that holiday travel has been on a steady increase. Business travel, on the other hand, has remained constant, and from 2013 to 2014 fell by 3.8%. Visits to friends and family increased by 6.5% in that year, but the money spent on holiday still surpasses the other two.

As previously mentioned, Spain has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of British travel. In 2014, according to the ONS, Brits in Spain spent 6.1m euros in their visit abroad. According to The Economist, Spain receives around 12m British tourists a year, which is 2x more than any other country. Most of the popular travel countries for the Brits are in Europe. This is mostly due to the convenient distance and prices. Destinations outside of Europe that were popular included Egypt and Turkey. However according to The Economist, the instability in north Africa and the Middle East have recently discouraged travelers to places like Israel, Tunisia, and Egypt. Trips to the United Arab Emirates, however, have spiked, along with trips to Eastern European countries. Some of these include Latvia, Croatia, and Lithuania.

That said, terror attacks have been reported in various countries. Therefore, British citizens should always check the government travel advice site before choosing their next holiday destination. For example, Tunisia, in 2015, suffered from a Sousse terrorist attack that killed 30 Brits. Thus, it was deemed unsafe to travel to. However, that warning has since been lifted. While dangers remain in any country, it is best to do the proper research and heed the government warnings.

Brits Business Travel

More British businesses are setting up shops abroad. However, according to a survey published by Business Insider done by InterNations, which hosts the largest network of expats, there is no correlation between earning a lot of money and being happy.

The top five countries where the life satisfaction was found to be highest were Costa Rica, Malta, Mexico, the Philippines, and Ecuador. The low cost of living was a draw for all five countries, but weather, and range of activities made Ecuador rank on the list. The draw to the Philippines, on the other hand, is the local’s friendliness towards kids. Mexico and Malta are easy to settle into because the locals are friend. This latter country is a favorite among Europeans looking to relocate, and the language barrier is low. Costa Rica, finally, seems to hit all the sweet spots, and is referred to as a “dream destination.”

Between 2014 and 2015, business travel expenses rose by 5.82 billion euro, which is a 30% increase. Corporates are traveling 7% more times for business-related travel, and the number of days they spend on side travel has increased by 17%. 1.05 billion was spend in 2015 on business trips abroad to the United States. Within Europe, 451 million was spent for business travel to Germany and 408 million was spent on France.

A huge rise of business travel and money spent has been reported in countries like Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, and despite the instability and risks involved in travelling to these countries, there has also been a rise in travel to the Middle East and Asia. Pakistan saw a 995% rise in money spend by business UK travelers. Business-related travel has dropped from Hong Kong but risen in mainland China.

Despite higher travel demands related to businesses, few UK firms actually have HR related responsibilities in place for travelers. Only 38% of companies surveyed said they accessed risk-management, and less than 50% of companies stated they provide employees with company guidelines while abroad.

Brexit will affect how British citizens travel. Right now, British citizens can go anywhere in the UK with their British passport. The only thing the border guard checks is that it actually belongs to you. Outside of the European Union, however, British citizens have no automatic right of admission, and thus the protocol varies from country to country. Negotiations are currently underway.

Simultaneously, the EU is trying to strengthen their borders through an initiative called the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). Citizens that don’t belong to an EU country will need to register their information and travel intentions only. Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland, however, are exempt. Once this system is in place, British passport holders will be covered under the same rules as non-EU passport holders, like Americans or Australians.

British citizens would then need to register with the ETIAS online site. They will pay a fee (although children under 12 are free). If there are no red flags to the application, admission into the EU countries will be given quickly, but if warning signs are triggered from the application, additional information will be requested. Those without internet can request a friend of family member to apply for them. The approval of the application does not necessarily mean you are granted admission into the EU country. The individual might still get questioned at the border. However, once the application is approved, it is valid for 3 years. We do not know when this change will take place, but it only applies to European countries that are part of the European Union.

British Holiday Destinations

The European Union is based of four freedoms, a legacy from the Treaty of Rome. These freedoms are the free movement capital, goods, services, and people. British citizens believe in the first 3, but the movement of people is a topic of contention. Part of the reason for Brexit was to lessen the number of people from EU countries coming and staying in Britain. This, however, goes both ways.

Britain leaving the European Union not only halts the number of people entering Britain, but it also will affect British citizens living in any of the EU countries. Close to 3 million people from countries in the EU live in Britain. Close to 1.2 million Brits live in countries of the EU (800,000 of those live in Spain). Britain comprises of one of the top 5 countries from the EU that have the largest numbers of expatriates living elsewhere in the EU. Brexit thus revokes this free movement of people, which uproots both British immigrants and expatriates.

Ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union, the migration rate from the rest of the countries in the EU has gone down from 189 to 127 thousand. In addition, the number of EU citizens immigrating into Britain, particularly from Hungary, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic has gone down. The number of EU citizens leaving Britain has also increased. In addition, Britain will most likely lose purchasing power, since the pound is weaker against the Euro.

That said, immigration to and from countries in the EU and what is known as “free movement” are different. Free movement simply involves the freedom for EU citizens to go from country to country within the EU. That said, the vote for Brexit will make it harder for British citizens to visit EU countries, since they are no longer covered by the free movement advantage. This is a blow, because up until now, most British citizens tend to travel to European countries due to convenient costs and distance. While negotiations regarding Brexit are still happening, British citizens should take advantage before any restrictions get set in place.

According to a 2018 survey posted by Express, the top ten countries Brits chose as holiday destinations were Portugal, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Germany, the United States, Spain, and France in descending order. However, The Guardian released a list of top 40 destinations around the world for travel inspirations. Akureyri in Iceland was voted the best destination according to The Guardian’s list. The city sits in the north under Iceland’s snow peaks. It is Iceland’s second largest urban city. The climate is dry and the city’s harbor rests on top of Iceland’s longest inlet.

Following the quaint city in Iceland is Tbilisi, Georgia, which is rising as a destination for those that want to party. The nightlife offers popular techno clubs and LGBT bars. New shops, galleries, and a blooming food culture rank this destination as number two on the list. Palermo, Italy, follows Tbilisi. Palermo is known as the culture capital of the country, and its rich history and mixed culture will open the visitor’s eye to long-founded traditions. Following these top three destinations are Leeuwarden-Friesland in the Netherlands, Russia (for the World Cup), Greece, Belgium, Paris in France, Valletta in Malta, and Amsterdam (also in The Netherlands) to comprise the top ten best British holiday destinations for 2018.

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Medical Treatment Abroad for Brits

Medical tourism refers to travel related to those that are seeking medical services or procedures abroad. Back in 2015, an article published by Express claimed that 200,000 Brits were traveling abroad due to long waiting lists by NHS, which stands for The National Health Service. This is Britain’s national healthcare system that is publicly funded.

The government estimates that the rush of those that are seeking treatment abroad can rise three times as much. The procedures range from dental operation to cardiology to cosmetic surgery. NHS hospitals give patients the option to pay privately for certain procedures to avoid the backlog, however, these procedures are cheaper elsewhere in the EU. If paying privately, people would opt for seeking medical treatment outside of Britain to help with medical costs. If approved by a doctor or specialist, British citizens can apply for funding for treatments done within the EU.

Getting treatment abroad comes as a risk to travelers. Many risks are involved, including complications, bad medical care abroad, unsafe equipment, and post-procedural complications. It is estimated that around 63,000 British citizens engage in medical tourism. The practice of medical tourism is to benefit from paid health care abroad.

In some cases, NHS cover abroad will work. For those claiming back medical expenses abroad, NHS might be able to grant this in some European Economic Area countries. This normally excludes dental care and plastic surgery, however.

An EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) allows EU members to access state-provided healthcare in other European Economic Area countries. Under this card, citizens of EU countries are entitled to free healthcare abroad – in any of the European countries that belong to the EU. This is one of the catalysts for medical tourism.

In a survey taken of British holiday travelers, a large number expected EHIC to cover emergency treatments for free. The reality, however, is that the average payout is around 1,300 pounds. EHIC also only covers the countries within the EU, and no other countries in Europe, such as Turkey. In addition, what is covered under EHIC differs from country to country. In an emergency, one also does not control whether they are taken to a public or private practice, in which case EHIC may not be accepted and the patient will have to pay the full cost of treatment. Hence, Brits need to be better educated about what EHIC provides and what it does not, studies show.

EHIC is not like the NHS in that under EHIC, almost no EU countries will pay for the entire cost of treatment. EHIC is not an NHS insurance abroad, it is thus its own form of travelers insurance.

With the vote for Brexit, there is a chance that the Brits may no longer have access to EHIC, although this hasn’t officially been decided yet. If, however, EHIC stops being an option for British citizens, there are many companies that are rising to help Brits seeking healthcare abroad. Allianz Worldwide Care, for example, released an international insurance plan for businesses that need to send their employees abroad. The plan is meant to be an option for Brits going to Europe and Europeans coming to Britain.

Concluding Remarks

As can be seen from the history of holidays in Britain, travelling is a large part of British life. Brits travel for many reasons, whether it’s for holiday, business, medical purposes, or to visit family and friends. In addition to Brits travelling abroad, there’s also a number of British expatriates living in other countries. As of right now, Brits are still covered under free movement, which allows British citizens to enter countries in the EU and vice versa. They are also covered under EHIC, which has been a proponent to medical tourism and allows British citizens to gain healthcare abroad in the countries that belong to the EU. However, the type of healthcare is limited and varies from country to country. That said, with the vote for Brexit, these free movement and EHIC privileges might be revoked, affecting the lives of those living in Britain along with expatriates.

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