Did We Visit Turkey Less last Year?

By | Category: Travel news, Travel rumblings

2009 was a year of belt tightening. We may not have gone abroad in such large numbers but holidays remained necessities. There was a drop of 15% in those of us holidaying abroad. So says our Office of National Statistics (ONS) via their annual Travel Trends publication and goes to confirm –officially- what we knew already.
Headlines in the press yesterday spoke of the fastest fall since the 1970’s and how overseas trips had grown by an average of 4% per year since 1974 up until 2009. But how accurately does this record what you and I did? Did 314,000 fewer of us go Turkey last year? And does it matter anyway?
The information comes from a survey called the International Passenger Survey. Throughout the year when you go through an airport, a ferry terminal or the Chunnel, you might be asked to answer a survey by an interviewer. (And no, this one isn’t carried out by our parent company, Consumerdata) About 300,000 of us are asked this each year and, from the results, the ONS calculates what we all did.
Because we have no other “official” data, government and the travel industry relies on this. But it doesn’t record people going abroad who get on any cruise ship which sails out of a British port. As well as that a new way of calculating the numbers was introduced in 2009 which, in the wonderful language of the ONS, “introduced some discontinuity in estimates…” That means the figures could be out by up to 3 percentage points.
So having said all that we are left with the fact that more of us went to Egypt, Jamaica and Lithuania over 2008. But not Turkey? Is all the anecdotal evidence misleading? Turkey is the tenth most visited destination now according to these figures. Yet the number of visits dropped by nearly 16% from 1,936,000 to 1,622,000. Can this all be due to businessmen cutting back visits?
France, Spain and the USA still account for 36% of all our visits and despite this downturn, those of us that went actually spent slightly longer abroad -10.5 nights- than we did in 2008. Spain suffered the most with 2.2 million less visits than in 2008 but remains the most popular destination. France had a million fewer visits. Proportionately, Barbados and Luxembourg fared much, much worse with British visits halved. With Luxembourg it must be due to fewer business visits but Barbados? Is Air Passenger Duty beginning to bite already? Is it because Barbados is expensive because visits elsewhere in the Caribbean rose?
So what does this mean? That the official statistics aren’t telling us what our gut says? That statistics from other countries are misleading? Who knows? As I said at the start, does it matter? Not to us as visitors except that if the figures are realistic, then start looking at the countries where there have been drops. There might be some bargains to be had next year.

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