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
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.