On Our Best Behaviour?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have released its report on where we required the most assistance from our consuls in the year ending 31st March 2010. Some media have used this as a basis for articles pointing out how badly behaved as visitors we have become. It just looks at the top 20 countries where most consular assistance has been sought. And therein lies the problem. It doesn’t tell us as travellers, where to avoid. There could be a greater chance of problems in other countries but we can’t tell.
Let’s take France for example. In the year covered by these figures some 14.7 million holidaymakers visited there plus 4.5 million daytrippers. On top of that about 250,000 Brits live there. If we take the figure of 2,400, the number of total consular cases they had to deal with, there is a one chance in 8,146 of requiring assistance. Yet France appears in third place in the FCO list. Compare this to Canada which appears 19th on the list. In just presentation, it seems a lot like less likely that you would require assistance. Yet, using the same approach as used for France, you have a one chance in 6,238 of needing assistance. Take Spain, the first country on the list. The same approach shows just a 1 in 7,935 chance of needing assistance.
So, on the face of it, some of the stories in the press are exaggerated or slanted, partly assisted in the way the FCO has portrayed the figures.
Proportionately, you are more likely to lose or get your passport stolen in New Zealand. Again that’s twice as high as, proportionately, the next country South Africa. Why so? The FCO suggests that it is because UK driving licences aren’t acceptable as proof of age in pubs and clubs as is the case in Australia. You can deduce then that most lost/stolen passports are from those who are under about 25. It also probably means that anyone over somewhere about that age is less likely to have their passport stolen or lost. By not having better information it suggests there is a real problem in New Zealand (and Australia) and that probably isn’t the case.
So has our behaviour abroad got worse? You would need more than the information in this document to answer that question.

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