The 2020 dream: Holiday outside the country

It is almost the end of the semester, the beautiful weather is coming and the final exams are in reach. This means, of course, that also the summer holidays are almost here. The perfect moment to take a break for a couple of weeks with your parents, friends, partner or just nice and quiet alone. Unfortunately, it will be slightly different this year. Many holidays have been cancelled by COVID-19. Still, we wondered what the holiday habits of the world population look like. What are the latest trends and in what way do they differ from the past? text by: Emma Segers

Before we look at the behavior of the travelers, it’s interesting to take a moment to think about the different prices that are attached to cities in the world. To be able to compare the different cities properly, we make the following assumptions:

  • One week for 2 adults staying at an Airbnb location
  • Food consumption: casual sit-down (no drinks)
  • Nightlife: Mid-range bar with 2 drinks
  • Transport: Walking and public transport
  • Activities: Museums, shows, tours and day trips
  • Transport to the destination is not taken into account

Comparing these prices shows that average costs per week vary between $250 and $3750. So for one of the cheaper holidays you could go to Cairo, Jaipur or Nairobi for example. European cities can be found from a minimum of $750 per week. Cheap cities in this price range include Skopje and Tirana. The most expensive European city is Reykjavik, which you can visit for about $3500 a week. But Amsterdam isn’t too cheap either, with an average cost of $2750 a week. When you compare continents, Africa is the cheapest, followed by Asia, South America, Europe, North America and finally Australia is the most expensive place to visit for a week. [1]

As you can see, going a week on holiday is sometimes quite expensive. A lot of people choose not to go on holiday because they just can’t afford it. When looking at EU residents aged 16 years and older, in 2019 there is a staggering 28.3% who cannot afford a holiday. This percentage is already a lot lower when looking at 2013. At that time, 39.5% of this population could not go on holiday for financial reasons. When looking at countries specifically, this percentage is highest in Romania, Croatia and Greece, respectively 58.9%, 51.3% and 51%. In Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden this percentage is the lowest, namely 12.2%, 10.9% and 9.7%. The Netherlands is in between and well below the EU average with 14.2%. [2]

When we look at the number of tourist arrivals per world region it becomes really interesting. There’s quite a lot of data about this, which makes the difference in tourism over the different years, but also between the different world regions, very visible. When looking at international tourist arrivals by world region in 2019, most tourists arrived in Europe, namely 713 million, followed by Asia & Pacific, with 343 million tourist arrivals. Africa attracts the least tourists with ‘only’ 67 million. Furthermore, the Middle East had 64 million tourists and North and South America together had 217 million tourists. These differences are immense, however it really becomes apparent that travel patterns change when you look at the numbers from the year 1950, when it was: 500,000, 200,000, 7.5 million and 16.8 million for Africa, the Middle East, Asia & Pacific, North and South America and Europe respectively. Therefore, relatively speaking, tourism in Africa, the Middle East and Asia & Pacific has increased enormously, while it has decreased in North and South America and Europe. This can be seen clearly in Figure 1. [3]

Figure 1: International Tourist Arrivals by World Region

For many people, going on holiday outside Europe is not really an option. There may be several reasons for this. For example: not wanting to go away for too long, don’t want to get on a plane for too long or not wanting to fly at all, or don’t have the money for expensive airline tickets. Going on holiday within Europe is an excellent alternative. If we look at the Dutch population of 15 years and older who go on holiday, we see that about 53% of this target group likes to go on holiday in their own country and 47% likes to go abroad. This last group is divided in the 12% who make a trip of 1 to 3 nights, the rest make a trip longer than 4 nights. For the tourists in their own country it is exactly the other way around, 16% of them make a trip longer than 4 nights and the rest make a short trip of 1 to 3 nights. Within Europe, the difference in tourism is enormous. When we look at the number of nights spent by tourists in a country, Spain tops the list with more than 300 million nights. This is followed by Italy with more than 215 million nights and France with almost 150 million nights. At the bottom of this list we find Luxembourg with about 2.5 million nights and Lithuania and Latvia with both around 2.7 million nights. The Netherlands dangles (again) somewhere in between with about 47 million. [4]

This international tourism can also be shown per country. It is very interesting to see how certain parts of the world weren’t visited that much 25 years ago and are now suddenly a hotspot on traveller’s lists. This can be clearly seen in Figure 2 and Figure 3. [3]

Figure 2: International tourism: Number of arrivals, 1995

Figure 3: International tourism: Number of arrivals, 2016

All above figures can of course be explained by underlying trends. Well, I won’t bother you with all the underlying reasons behind the above mentioned figures, but I thought it would be nice to highlight some interesting trends. As discussed earlier, inbound tourism has grown a lot. One sector that benefits from that is the hotel sector. In total there were over 14.7 million foreign hotel guests in the Netherlands last year. Unfortunately, this will be different this summer, but this growth is expected to continue when the corona crisis is over. A form of holiday that is becoming more and more popular is taking a cruise. Last year as many as 28.2 million holidaymakers went on a cruise ship. This is an increase of as much as 9.6 million compared to 10 years ago. [5]

In addition, the purpose and requirements of a holiday are also changing somewhat. This has everything to do with Generation Y, the millennials. Even in the holiday industry we can no longer avoid the dreaded word ‘experience’. For example, the millennials are looking for good WiFi instead of a TV in the hotel room and few people of this generation still have cash in their pockets. You don’t eat at the first beach club anymore, but a night out requires a careful research on TripAdvisor, for example. No longer with a map, information booklet and guide through the city. No, the millennials can handle the world with just their smartphone in their pocket. In addition, the information market is becoming more and more transparent and negative aspects of tourism are becoming visible. Because no matter how great it is to discover the slums of South-Africa with a tour, it remains to be seen whether the poor people who live there also experience it that way. When we look at our own country, Amsterdam is of course a good example. Many streets are completely dedicated to tourism. Think of all kinds of AirBnB locations, ‘stroopwafel’-tents, cheese shops and tulip sellers. The quality of life of the locals sometimes seems to have been forgotten. [6]

All in all, there are quite a few interesting developments in the field of tourism. At the moment, this industry is at a standstill and it is very interesting to think about how the corona crisis will affect tourism and when it will be back in it’s full glory. This may take a while and it is not yet clear when all will be back to normal. So this summer it will be mainly in the backyard with a mojito, some sunshine and hopefully we will be able to go to our favorite holiday destination again very soon!


[1] Reddit. Average Cost of a Weeklong Holiday . Walletwyse. [Online] 2018.

[2] Eurostat. News. Key to European Statistics. [Online] 07 31, 2019.

[3] Our World in Data. Tourism . [Online] 10 2019.

[4] Eurostat. Database. Eurostat. [Online] 5 2020.

[5] NRIT . Trendrapport. [Online] November 25, 2019.,_recreatie_en_vrije_tijd_2019_in_50_trends/.

[6] NHL Stenden. Nieuws. [Online] September 27, 2019.