Lonely Planet Writer

Celebrities and other surprising factors influence British holiday destination choices

A study has found that British tastes in long-haul holiday destinations are influenced by everything from celebrity cachet to the global financial crisis. A new survey undertaken by the Office for National Statistics in England has outlined influences that impact on the popularity of the top ten destinations, and these include pop star and athlete endorsements and movie set locations.

Sex and the City 2 has been credited with enticing visitors to Abu Dhabi. Image: Warner Bros Pictures
Sex and the City 2 has been credited with enticing visitors to Abu Dhabi. Image: Warner Bros Pictures

The survey, called The International Passenger Survey, has been compiling the results of over 700,000 annual household surveys since 1961 to record holidaymakers’ habits. Holiday comparison website TravelSupermarket created a series of graphs to illustrate the UK’s changing tastes over the past 20 years. In its analysis, it pointed out that the movie Sex and the City 2 was set in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps this luxurious setting was influential in driving the increase from approximately 25,000 visitors to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 1995 to over 400,000 in 2015?

Pop star Rihanna took part in a 2013 tourism campaign in Barbados. Image: Barbados Tourism Authority
Pop star Rihanna took part in a 2013 tourism campaign in Barbados. Image: Barbados Tourism Authority

Canada only had 140,000 UK visitors last year compared with a peak of 360,000 in 2000. It is believed that a combination of the September 11 terrorist attacks and a SARS outbreak in 2003 may have played a role in the downward trend. Australia has also experienced a drop in popularity, as it had 270,000 visitors in 2005 and only 120,000 in 2015.

Visitors numbers from the UK to Canada have fallen, according to a British survey. Image: Nino H. Photography/Getty Images
Visitors numbers from the UK to Canada have fallen, according to a British survey.
Image: Nino H. Photography/Getty Images

The numbers visiting Barbados were observed to have risen and fallen over the years. The dramatic rise from 60,000 in 2014 to more than 100,000 in 2015 has been attributed to pop star Rihanna’s starring role in a 2013 tourism campaign. There has also been a promising growth in visitors to Jamaica since 2013, which has been helped by Olympic champion sprinter, Usain Bolt, starring in campaigns that promote tourism in his home country.

 

Other findings include that Mexico’s numbers have risen from 50,000 in 1995 to almost 500,000 in 2015, despite being visited by Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and swine flu in 2009. Thailand has weathered an outbreak of bird flu in 2004 and the Indian Ocean tsunami later that year to remain a popular destination, and it welcomed over 300,000 British visitors in 2015. TravelSupermarket wonders if some were taking travel inspiration from Leonardo Di Caprio in the film, The Beach, which was set at Maya Bay near Ko Phi Phi Leh.

To read the report in full, please see here.