Chilly holiday

How holidays have changed for the British and visitors to the UK

Full print version, including charts and tables

For all the talk of an ‘influx’ of sports fans to the UK, the overall impact of the Olympic Games on inbound UK tourism is expected to be small.

Economists estimate a 3% increase in overall visitor numbers, albeit concentrated in the London summer.

That is not to say the UK will not be a major tourist destination in 2012: around 30m people will visit the UK for business and pleasure this year. More will come from the United Arab Emirates alone than came from the whole world in 1946. The 200,000 visitors in that year mainly came from neighbouring European countries, with tourism from the Commonwealth hit by post-war transport difficulties. Then, as now, American visitors, which peaked in number in 2000, were valued for their high spending power.

Over the same period, overseas travel by UK residents has grown even more dramatically, in both numbers and distance travelled. The growth of air travel, package holidays and regional airports has contributed to a boom in overseas holidaying, which was largely unchecked until the financial crisis hit in 2007. While overseas visits in 1951 were largely limited to jaunts across the Channel or the Irish Sea, one quarter of holidays by UK residents in 2011 were taken outside the EU. However, Spain has long been the top destination and will receive more than 10m British visitors this year.

Received wisdom suggests the growth of Mediterranean package holidays has meant the death of the domestic holiday. That is not entirely borne out by the statistics. While domestic holidaying peaked in the early 1970s, increased prosperity and leisure time mean we still take as many ‘staycations’ as 50 years ago.

Coming and going
The top chart shows the numbers and origin of visitors to the UK; the bottom chart shows the destinations of British holidaymakers.

The top chart shows the numbers and origin of visitors to the UK; the bottom chart shows the destinations of British holidaymakers

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