THE CHANG­ING FACE OF TRAVEL

As one door closes, an­other one opens. We take a look at how the des­ti­na­tions we’ve trav­elled to over the last two decades have evolved and con­tinue to do so

Food and Travel (UK) - - 200 th Issue -

The world is a smaller place than it was 20 years ago. We are trav­el­ling to more des­ti­na­tions and fur­ther afield than ever be­fore, bring­ing back ex­pe­ri­ences that en­rich our lives, im­prove our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of cui­sine and give us a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of other cul­tures.

As you’ll read in the com­ing pages, how and why we travel is gov­erned by a num­ber of fac­tors. Our 200 is­sues have wit­nessed global eco­nomic crises, fraught in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, but for the bulk of it, we have gained ac­cess to scores of coun­tries.

The Of­fice of Na­tional Sta­tis­tics (ONS), con­firms that we’re cross­ing bor­ders more than ever. In 1996, we made 42 mil­lion vis­its abroad and num­bers have in­creased ev­ery year since 2012, peak­ing at 70.8m in 2016. The ITB World Travel Trends Re­port 2016/17 sug­gests the threat of ter­ror­ism has no im­pact on the over­all vol­ume of trips we Brits make. The last two decades have lav­ished us with chances to dis­cover less-ex­plored lo­cales. Un­til 2009 Sri Lanka was off lim­its due to 25 years of civil war, but now it’s a des­ti­na­tion on the tip of the tongue.

Bri­tish tourists have dou­bled since 2010, with 200,000 vis­it­ing last year.

South East Asia on the whole has been a key re­gion for you. In Viet­nam, tourism has in­creased 20 per cent year-on-year for the last decade as peo­ple look to ex­plore its won­der­ful food scene, vi­brant mar­kets and me­an­der­ing wa­ter­ways. Myanmar (Burma) has had eco­nomic sanc­tions lifted and opened up to tourism, while Thai­land is your favourite of the lot, with UK vis­i­tor num­bers break­ing the mil­lion mark for the first time last year.

In the Noughties, Pa­pua New Guinea was one of the last fron­tiers. Only the odd cruise ship docked and 1,783 UK vis­i­tors stepped ashore in 2006. This jumped 97 per cent in 2007 to 3,514. When we vis­ited in 2015 for our gourmet trav­eller fea­ture, 7,399 Brits fol­lowed suit.

In the Caribbean, Barack Obama’s 2016 re­moval on travel re­stric­tions to Cuba for the first time in 50 years had a knock on ef­fect. The Min­istry of Tourism re­ported 13 per cent growth in vis­its from 2015-16 and ex­pects 4.1 mil­lion vis­i­tors this year. As flights have in­creased and di­rect routes be­come avail­able, South Amer­ica is also on the agenda. Vis­i­tor num­bers have dou­bled since 2009, ac­cord­ing to ONS.

Fledg­ling des­ti­na­tions like Bhutan are open­ing up to re­spon­si­ble tourism. UK guests have to spend £155 a day and must use a reg­is­tered travel agent.

At the time of writ­ing, the For­eign Of­fice has just lifted its two-year ban on travel to Tu­nisia. Bri­tish vis­i­tors de­clined by 90 per cent af­ter the 2015 at­tacks, but we’re ready to re­turn. For na­tions whose economies rely on tourism, the Bri­tish pound is es­sen­tial. Luck­ily for them, we’re ready to spend it.

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