Alright, hands up – who’s thinking about their next holiday? Us too. Whether it’s a weekend away, a road trip, some winter sun (or a spot of summer sun for that matter) many of us Brits constantly dream of escaping for a few days, weeks or even months.
But where are we getting away to exactly? Well, if our willingness to travel to increasingly far-flung destinations reflects the health of the UK economy, there’s reason to be cheerful. We’ve pored through our transaction data from across the globe to reveal where we’re going – and the results make for some pretty interesting reading.
Brits made 4,410,433 transactions abroad in 2016 – 4.34% more than in 2014.
So where are we spending our money?
While the likes of the US, Dubai and Spain continue to dominate our travel wish lists, our data reveals some fascinating trends in terms of where else we’re parting with our cash. Take a look – it could inspire your next overseas adventure.
Counting the Costa
Between 2014 and 2016, the largest leap in transactions anywhere in the world was in Costa Rica. That’s right – last year we Brits made 4,850 transactions in this rugged, rainforested nation of waterfalls, crater lakes and deserted beaches, a massive 136% rise.
Costa Rica is known as the happiest country on Earth, and we were happiest to visit between December and April when – guess what – the average temperature was at its peak. There were more than double the number of transactions during this time than in our traditional summer.
We’ve pinpointed 2016 as the year our Latin love affair really began. In a more general continental trend, the number of transactions in Central America climbed from 22,843 in 2014 to 30,327 in 2016 – a rise of 32.76%.
Brits toured the ancient monuments of Mexico, hiked through the pristine forests of Nicaragua, and sunbathed on white-sand beaches in Guatemala as more of us embraced ‘la vida loca’ in Central America. It was some way ahead of the next fastest-growing regions for number of transactions. In second-placed Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, there were 6.99% more transactions. Asia was third-placed, with 6.89%.
Last year was also when we developed a passion for the Pacific – specifically Samoa, where the number of transactions grew a staggering 1,744% between 2014 and 2016. Much of it was spent on hotels and accommodation, pubs and restaurants, and retail outlets.
Again, this trend was part of a wider shift towards the paradises of the Pacific, as we also parted with more cash in Palau (101 transactions in 2016 – up 375% from 2014) and Fiji (217 – up 39% from 2014). There were similar increases across Papua New Guinea, Guam and American Samoa.
Other surprisingly popular destinations for UK tourists were Zimbabwe (784 transactions – up 145% from 2014) and Myanmar (960 transactions – up 241.64%) as Brits surrendered themselves to the lure of the world’s more exotic locations over traditional, closer-to-home alternatives.
Best of the rest
Lying just off the West African coast is the island chain of Cape Verde, famed for its captivating blend of mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. Brits headed here in droves in 2016, making 1,238 transactions (83.14% more than in 2014). Argentina was another hotspot, where we made 4,342 transactions – a 66.87% rise from 2014.
Alongside the surprises, our transaction data also threw up some predictable patterns. Europe still remains the most popular continent by some distance, with 2,108,585 transactions in 2016 (up 6% from 2014) followed by North America (1,184,541 – an increase of 1%) and Asia (272,917 – up 6%). And we still love spending time and money Down Under, with 12,362 more transactions in 2016 than in 2014 – a 9% increase.
Our favourite Mediterranean destinations remain ever popular, with an 11% rise in the number of transactions in both Spain (1,417,434) and Italy (507,057) compared with 2014. Iceland – which has some of the most remarkable, dramatic landscapes on the planet – had the highest increase by volume. Its 39.8% increase saw a cool 25,370 transactions made.
Montenegro and Latvia emerged as popular alternative European destinations for UK travellers. The magnet-like pull of Montenegro’s majestic mountains and breath-taking beaches encouraged Brits to spend £3,929 here in 2016 – a staggering 73.65% jump. More of us are also taking ourselves, and our credit cards, to Latvia, where we spent £8,498 in 3,468 transactions last year – 48.91% more than in 2014.
Tumbleweed Tunisia, empty Egypt
While more people went to Central America, more stayed away from previous hotspots. Tunisia, a popular resort destination a few years ago, saw a 79.6% drop in the number of transactions in 2016 (472, compared to 2,314 in 2014). This was the biggest drop of any destination in the world.
There was a similar decline in Egypt, with just 2,779 transactions compared to 9,788 two years earlier – a drop of 71.61%.
And there are signs that more of us are looking further afield than France, where we made 533,435 transactions – a fall of 3.91%.
While it remains to be seen whether Azerbaijan can improve on the 15 transactions made by Brits in 2016, the figures suggest that as a nation we’re shaking off old habits and venturing to more far-flung destinations.
Our dive into the data suggests we Brits are breaking out of our comfort zones as we look for new experiences. So it’s farewell France, hello Costa Rica.