Articles / Travel safety

10 Years of Data Predicts Popular Holiday Destinations for Brits When Travel Opens Up Again

With holidays taking a backseat for many in 2020, it has been a tough time for the travel and tourism industry. As restrictions eventually ease and the skies become busy again, where will Brits be flocking to and where will their money be spent? Find out here.

With holidays taking a backseat for many in 2020, it has been a tough time for the travel and tourism industry. The rollout of multiple vaccines comes with hope for many that they will be able to start travelling again, but as restrictions eventually ease and the skies become busy again, where will Brits be flocking to and where will their money be spent?

To establish the expected changes to tourism and GBP(£) spend abroad going forwards, we’ve analysed 10 years of UK travel data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) - 2009 - 2019, to monitor where Brits have been travelling over the years, where money has been spent and how habits are changing. 

The past ten years have revealed an increase in visits to specific countries for different needs. Holiday destinations differ between males and females, with hotspot destinations identified for those looking to visit before everyone else.

Using data for the past ten years, we have forecast travel numbers for the next decade and beyond; revealing how much tourism the world can expect from the UK. The research also predicts how much money will be spent in each location as countries rally to recoup some of the tourism income lost to the global pandemic.

2021 travel - what can we expect?

Following the UK Government’s roadmap out of restrictions, May 17th marks the day a new travel traffic light system is enforced. This signals hope for Brits, making the prospect of a 2021 summer holiday a reality. The full ‘green’ list for UK travellers has already been announced, with the following countries making the list: 

  • Portugal

  • Israel

  • Gibraltar

  • Iceland

  • Faroe Islands

  • Brunei

  • Falkland Islands

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

  • Singapore

  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

After the announcements from the UK government and these countries, we have used our research to calculate what Brits are expected to spend in these countries this year and how many visits are set to be made as pent up demand finally gets a release. The likelihood is that this demand from no holidays in 2020 could mean that these numbers in reality will be much higher than what we have predicted - but it is a good guide for both travellers and those businesses that are set to take advantage.

Expected spend and visits by Brits to 'green list countries' in 2021
Expected spend and visits by Brits to 'green list countries' in 2021 (continued)
Expected spend and visits by Brits to 'green list countries' in 2021 (continued)

Brits’ go-to holiday destination – past, present and future

Every year for the past 10 years, Spain has topped the table as the go-to holiday destination, with 15,608,434 visits in 2019 alone, the highest amount since 2009. In 10 years, visits to the country have seen an overall growth of 47.3%

At an average year-on-year growth rate of 3.95%, in 2030 it is predicted that Spain will see 23,903,449 visits from UK holidaymakers, maintaining its crown of ‘Most Visited Country By Brits’ for the next 10 years.

When looking at overall total spend, Spain also tops the list for the overall amount of money spent every year for the past 10 years, with spend increasing on average each year by 6.33% each year. With spend assuming the same rate of increase, it’s predicted to be £18,904,797,406 in 2030. However, based on the predicted visits, this is a spend of only £790.88 per person, which places Spain much lower in the list for where Brits are individually spending the most of their hard-earned cash.

Things are changing – there's a new tourist trap on the horizon

As of 2019, here are the top 10 most visited countries by UK holidaymakers, with Spain comfortably leading the way.

Top 10 most visited countries by UK holidaymakers in 2019

Based on the compound annual growth rate of the past 10 years and forecasting ahead at the same rate for each country, it isn’t until 2050 that Spain will lose its lead, where Hungary will take the top spot! So you might want to get your trip booked in now, so you can say you’ve been there and done it before it takes off, along with Romania, Iceland, Mexico, Croatia and Latvia all making their way into the predicted top 10 UK holiday destinations.

Prediction of top 10 holiday destinations for UK travellers in 2050

But where's all the money going?

There’s a difference in the picture when looking at UK holidaymakers’ total spend. Over the next ten years, Spain, France and the USA remain the top three countries taking the most amount of money from the pockets of UK travellers in total.

Countries where UK travellers spent the most in 2019

Moving into the 2030s, we start to see Japan and Iceland make their way into the top three having crept up the table throughout the years, with Spain losing its spot to Iceland in 2039 as the Icelandics maximise off UK holidaymakers. By 2050, we have a very different looking top 10.

Predicted spend by UK travellers in 2050 by country

Looking at overall total of spend and predictions for years to come means that countries can prepare for UK tourism to really maximise off the visitors. But, the picture changes yet again when we look at the spend per person and how much an individual visiting these countries is looking to depart with. There lies the real opportunity for countries, specifically those that make the most from one UK citizen - considering how can they then attract more - but which countries have that opportunity?

Top 10 countries where UK travellers spent the most in 2019

Based on dividing the total spend by total visits, Australia has the overall highest average spend from UK citizens per person, per visit in 2019, followed by Austria and Pakistan. Over time this is changing as we see new countries predicted to make the most from each Brit on their holiday.

In just ten years, the tables change, with Japan, China, Iceland, Thailand, USA, Barbados and Norway moving up in the table. At the same average year-on-year growth rate for the past ten years, in 2030, each Brit will spend over £6k on average each time they visit Japan!

Predicted spend per person per visit in 2030

The increased spend per person implies longer trips to these countries where there’s more opportunities to depart with cash, signalling a new destination for cash rich travellers. Japan may soon become the go-to destination for backpackers looking to take a break from the day-to-day in the UK.

The top destinations here are where visits are less than the predicted average for every country in 2030 of 1,610,698, but where spend is above the average per person on every visit to any destination, which is £1,014.43.

In the destinations below, the data reveals those where spend per person is high but visits are low, implying those that do visit spend a lot and indulge when in those countries.

Predicted hidden gems in 2030

If you are planning on heading to any of these hotspots once travel opens up again, it is likely more pertinent now than ever before that you ensure you are vaccinated against diseases. The diseases that are prominent differ by country, which means the vaccinations that are needed to travel will as well. A list of all destinations and what vaccinations are required for each country can be found here.

Looking at our top three hot spots, you can find information on all vaccinations below:

How do males and females differ with holiday choice and spend?

Here, we are going to look at where males and females are visiting and spending the most and how this differs between the genders. Do different places command more money from men than women and do we see females visiting different places to men?


Expend by male British tourists in 2019

The trend for men follows the same as that for overall figures, with Spain topping the tables for overall spend at £5,636,696,486.4 in 2019, following a compound annual growth rate of 8.13% each year, meaning men accounted for 58.6% of the overall total spend in Spain in 2019. 

In terms of visits, the picture is very similar.

Visits by male British travellers in 2019

Male visits: 

Top 3 for 2030 - Spain (14489211.87), France (4682023.746), Italy (3731573.899) 

Top 3 for 2050 - Iceland (49,336,735.08) , Spain (38,398,639.84) , Romania (37,552,982.63) 

Male Spend:

Top 3 for 2030 - Spain (£13,322,017,747.76), Iceland (£5,050,160,468.79), USA (£5,049,293,957.3) 

Top 3 for 2050 - Iceland (£1,417,851,670,337.77), Latvia (£115,362,630,356.76), Japan (£83,845,609,900.42)


Expend by female British travellers in 2019

Again, it’s no surprise to see Spain topping the tables for overall spend at £3,988,515,826.88 in 2019, following a compound annual growth rate of 4.25% each year.

In terms of visits, the picture is very similar.

Visits by female British travellers 2019

Female visits: 

Top 3 for 2030 - Spain (9,708,448.84), Italy (2,753,052.34), Greece (2,051,812.12) 

Top 3 for 2050 - Hungary (21,357,945.01) , Latvia (19,286,958.4) , Spain (17,011,580.65) 

Female Spend:

Top 3 for 2030 - Spain (£6,301,174,152.11), Japan (£3,330,413,331.12), USA (£2,667,108,617.64)

Top 3 for 2050 - Japan (£464,388,673,500.66), China - Hong Kong (£174,360,000,168.99), Norway (£47,288,830,346.47)

Percentage splits – male vs female visits

With both datasets, the differences become clear between both genders when we look at percentage splits in visits. Here we can see where each gender prefers to visit - information which could be incredibly valuable to tourist boards and businesses that thrive off UK tourism. 

Looking at the breakdown of visits and percentage of where each gender visits reveals a much clearer picture of habits and destinations, again we can refer here to the past 10 years to forecast ahead to the future.

Percentage of female visits in 2019 and predictions for 2030 and 2050

We can see that in 2019 Estonia and Barbados led the way, with a staggering 82.25% of all visits to Estonia made by females and more than half to Barbados. Estonia remains on the top spot for the next 30 years at the compound average rate of increase 19.85%

Digging down into the data for Estonia, it shows a gradual decline in the amount of men visiting, dating back to pre-2019 at an average decline of 1.28% each year, leading to an increased proportion of women visiting the country. Visits reduced from 15,579 male visits in 2018 to a predicted 5,259 in 2032 and 4,169 in 2050!

But the picture looks very different below for men. Slovakia tops the tables across the board, at a huge 84.66% of all visits to the country in 2019 made by men, if the trajectory continues at the rate it has over the last 10 years, we’ll see 99.77% of all travellers to Slovakia in 2050 being male.

For the majority over the years, the countries remain the same with more men travelling to the likes of Pakistan, Romania and Sri Lanka than women.

Percentage of male visits in 2019 and predictions for 2030 and 2050


As travel begins to reopen over the next year, hopefully marking an end to the COVID-19 pandemic we can refer to this research for unique insight and predictions as to where Brits will travel in the future. 

For businesses and tourism, this research could be a vital tool for preparing for the influx of UK tourism and planning how to make the most from it. Holidaymakers can dig into those hot spot destinations and future tourist traps so they can visit and see the sights before everyone else. 

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