Vacations abroad by Britons fell 15 per cent last year.
Millions of Britons are abandoning the foreign holiday for the first time since mass tourism became common in the 1970s, official figures indicate. The number of trips abroad by British residents fell 15 per cent last year, as the financial downturn and poor exchange rates saw many families opt for so-called “staycations” at home.
The sharp decline – representing 10.4 million overseas visits – bucks a four decade trend of increasing foreign travel sparked by the rise of the package holiday in the 1970s and a more recent boom in the popularity of exotic destinations.
Figures published by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday indicated that cash-strapped Britons were particularly spurning distant countries, with visits to Mexico down 41 per cent, New Zealand 30 per cent and Canada 26 per cent.
But summer holiday favourites Spain and France also saw a decline in British visitors, with total trips falling 19 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
The average length of the average overseas visit, however, when people do still venture abroad actually increased last year, from 10.2 days to 10.5 days.
British hoteliers, meanwhile, have benefited not only from the rise of the British “staycation” but also an increase in the number of foreigners taking holidays in this country, thanks in part to the weakness of the pound.
Around 11.4 million overseas holidaymakers visited these shored in 2009, up from 10.9 million in 2008, although the overall number of visitors to Britain – including business travellers – fell by 6.3 per cent.
Edinburgh was the biggest beneficiary of the boom, seeing an extra 133,000 visitors, while Cambridge put on 18,000 visitors.
Roger Smith, who complied the annual Travel Trends report for the ONS, described the decline in foreign holidays taken by Britons as “striking”, adding that “the long term trend has been very much of an increase in travel”.
Overseas trip totals have fallen in just five of the last 35 years, and never before by more than three per cent.
Explaining the marked drop, the report states that “2009 was a year of economic challenges with the UK economy in recession and sterling exchange rates down versus recent years.” The swine flu alert also discouraged travel to Mexico, which saw the sharpest drop in British visitors.
Business travel by Britons has been particularly badly hit by the recession, falling 23 per cent last year.