PART 2

Country Profiles

Where Do They Go?

The following section summarizes where tourists travel to, based on country profiles (US Travel Association 2019) up to 2019. Clearly, this is just a sample of countries that have a significant body of tourists traveling overseas and is not a full global picture. However, it does make interesting reading when certain destinations appear in the top two to three positions irrespective of the home country. Note that it is mainly long-haul travel and not exclusively related to the 50+ age group, and the stated statistics may vary according to the source, method, and time of collection and analysis.

UK Travel Profile

There are more potential destinations identified in current trends later in this section, but it is useful to look more closely at the UK situation because this may well reflect that in other countries.

Overtourism is an issue in many parts of the UK, as in other parts of the world. London is a major destination, as you would expect—see Chart 4 breakdown of who visits London—with tourism representing a considerable source of income and contribution to GDP. Whereas U.S. tourists are the biggest group of visitors to London, others in the top ten list are from European states. Rural areas are also impacted directly by increasing numbers of tourists.

Chart 4 Visitors to London (Statista 2020)

The waterways have opened up in recent years, particularly with improved riverside paths and canal towpaths, which often represent easier walking than coastal paths. Where the mature traveler is keen to enjoy a slower pace of travel, the journey being an integral part of the vacation, public transport links and connections are starting to improve in some areas to encourage more activities aimed at both domestic and overseas tourists.

Microbusinesses are growing in numbers in the UK, particularly in the area of food production, wine-making, brewing “craft” or small-batch beers, and spirit distilleries. Local farmers’ markets also continue to be popular around the UK, bringing a wide range of fresh produce into more convenient town and village locations.

For the UK tourist, large-scale Christmas markets or traditional Victorian Fairs are a regular feature of promotions aimed at the target group, and British tourists represent a significant proportion of visitors to overseas markets, particularly those in Berlin and Hannover, Ostend, and Ghent. Such visits overseas generally involve coach, ferry, or cruise journeys.

As noted earlier, the staycation concept is becoming more appealing to an older market sector, often leading to shorter breaks but more frequent trips during the year. This can also be seen by the rapid growth in the popularity of Airbnb bookings, often just short-term breaks, with an over 600 percent increase in the number of lettings available by early 2020.

The domestic market in all countries has increased over recent years, but long term this is less clear in view of travel restrictions currently imposed in order to try and contain the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Top motivations stated by UK travelers for international travel include visiting cultural and historical attractions, experiencing the local lifestyle, relaxing on beaches and at the seaside, plus enjoying new and exciting dining and shopping experiences.

Table 13 gives a detailed picture of rise and fall in the popularity of long-haul destinations for UK travelers over the last five years. It shows that the top long-haul destinations for UK travelers stayed consistent and increased overall between 2015 and 2018, the only change being in the number of trips to the United States, which fell by 4.9 percent. Trips to India rose by almost a third and to Canada by over 10 percent, although numbers in millions are still considerably less than those traveling to the United States. Overall, numbers for long-haul travel did indeed rise over the year.

Table 13 Top long-haul destinations for UK travelers

Destination2015 (in millions)2018 (in millions)% rise or fall in visits
United States4,900 4,659 4.9
UAE1,500 1,582 +5.5
India8681,153 +32.9
Thailand948 987 +4.2
Canada716 791 +10.6
Overall trips taken20,548 22,151 +7.8

Charts 5 and 6, with figures from the ONS (2018–2019) in the UK, show the number of visits made overseas had declined during the April to June period 2019 compared with the year earlier. This decline continued to the August figures in 2019. Reasons are varied, of course, but uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit discussions is considered to be a factor. However, as Table 13 shows, visits to the United States were actually down on previous numbers, rather than to any other long-haul destinations, so it is not a simple case of reading the figures (Chart 7).

Chart 5 Number of visits overseas to June 2019 [ONS International Passenger survey]

Chart 6 Number of visits overseas to August 2019 [ONS International Passenger survey]

Chart 7 Patterns in spending [ONS International Passenger survey]

Despite fluctuations in destinations visited, spending by UK tourists traveling overseas followed a similar pattern between 2016 and 2019, apart from some increase in the first half of 2017. There is no indication of why except that the Brexit vote took place in 2016, so residents may have been keen to take their vacation while uncertain about how much travel plans would be affected in the future. This rise in spending also follows a similar pattern for overseas visitors to the UK during the same period. In addition, Chart 8 shows that spending abroad increased by 4 percent over the year to 2019.

Chart 8 Increase in spending overseas [ONS International Passenger survey]

In 2019, the top 10 list of destinations for travelers from the UK [ONS/finder.com] were primarily in Europe (note that this is destinations overall rather than the earlier trips specifically defined as long-haul), with the United States ranking fourth in the list.

1. Spain 15.62 million

2. France 8.56m

3. Italy 4.16m

4. United States 3.47m

5. Ireland 3.42m

6. Portugal 2.87m

7. Germany 2.82m

8. Netherlands 2.72m

9. Poland 2.67m

10. Greece 2.34m

In addition, Trip Advisor published the following list of the most popular attractions booked through them in 2019 as mainland Europe, with just 3 out of 10 based in the United States.

Colosseum, Rome (Rome also noted for luxury fashion goods shopping as well as exploring iconic architectural features (Condé Nast 2019))

Louvre, Paris

Vatican Museum, Rome

Statue of Liberty, New York City

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

French Quarter, New Orleans

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Skydeck Chicago, Willis Tower

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Inbound tourist numbers to the UK continue to grow—see the ONS surveys above—and spending has stayed fairly consistent over previous years. As we note in a later section on the U.S. profile, U.S. spending in the UK is actually greater than UK spending in the United States.

Although the number of visitors from overseas remained fairly stable in 2019 compared with a year earlier (ONS 2018–2019; Statistics Poland/Statista 2019), spending did increase by 3 percent in just one-quarter of 2019; clearly, this is a positive sign. However, note that the ONS surveys, as well as some others that review the international travel and spending patterns, do not include breakdown by age group and are hence valuable inasmuch as they provide a useful picture of trends (Chart 9).

Chart 9 Number of inbound visits to UK [ONS International Passenger survey]

As 2020 is the year for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, it will be interesting to see how far these figures change in next year’s statistics. Even more crucial for our target sector is that more detailed analyses give a better picture of travel and spending according to age group or family basis.

U.S. Travel Profile

As we can see from other country profiles, travel to and from the United States is an important element of the worldwide travel market. Although this book is focused on the mature traveler over 50 to 55 years old, the overall picture of global travel has a direct impact on plans and future strategies for all those involved in the sector. In addition, research into the travel industry consistently demonstrates how important it is to get new customers and keep them loyal to the brand.

Both domestic and overseas travelers contributed almost $1.1 trillion to the GDP in 2018, so travel and tourism is a major element of the U.S. economy (US Travel Association 2019; USTOA 2018). The country profiles included here show there has been some fluctuation in the popularity of the United States as a travel destination in recent years. There has been some loss of business from countries that have traditionally seen the United States as a favorite destination, although California still remains popular – Image 4. Potential visitors are choosing to travel farther afield or try out new emerging travel markets.

Image 4 California [Photo by Viviana Rishe]

There are several different sources that identify the strength of inbound travel, generally agreeing with Table 14 from the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) forecast based on actual figures in 2018 and on into the following five years (travel.trade.gov), plus feedback from USTA in 2019. Note that Canada and Mexico are not included as “Overseas” in the NTTO list, and in other sources it variously refers to the top inbound nation as Canada or the UK followed by Mexico or Japan, so this explains these anomalies. Brazil and Germany are also interchangeable depending on which year’s figures are used to decide their position.

Table 14 NTTO Forecast of inbound travel to the United States

PlaceCountry
 1Canada
 2Mexico
Overseas
 3UK
 4Japan
 5China
 6South Korea
 7Brazil
 8Germany
 9France
10India
11Australia

The United States has long been one of the main long-haul tourist destinations for UK travelers, although this has declined over recent years, representing a total spend of around $16 billion and over 21 percent of U.S. exports. Visits to the United States have started to increase again from 2019, so it will be interesting to see how far it can develop its “competitive edge” (US Travel Association 2019) to attract still more visitors from the UK. However, around 27 percent of British travelers still consider the United States to be among the leading desired destinations.

Feedback from UK tourists gives some interesting insights into why they choose to visit the United States and what they are looking for or expecting from their visit. The most important content of the trip they are looking for is a chance to visit restaurants and sample the food, enjoy good accommodation, visit iconic attractions, and use local transport.

The primary purpose of the trip to the United States, which has changed little over the last two years, falls into the following main categories (Table 15).

Table 15 Primary purpose of trip to the United States from the UK

Primary trip purpose
Vacation65%
Visit friends and family18%
Business trip 9%
Attend convention or trade shows 6%
Education 2%

The activities planned for the trip have also remained consistent over recent years, UK visitors stating the following range of experiences as a prerequisite for booking a visit (Table 16).

Table 16 Planned activities during visit to the United States

Planned activities
Shopping85%
Sightseeing82%
Visits to parks and monuments38%
Visits to historical locations31%
Fine dining30%

In 2018, the main destinations for UK travelers were Florida (28 percent), New York state (27 percent ), and California (17 percent ), with around 12 percent saying this was the first time they had been to the United States. (Table 17).

Table 17 Top cities visited in the United States

City visited
New York27%
Orlando19%
Las Vegas10%
Los Angeles 9%
San Francisco 8%

Visitors from the UK were the biggest group of tourists to visit New York City (Statista 2020) in 2018, closely followed by those from China and Canada—see Chart 12.

While UK travelers to the United States say they find the people friendly and adventurous, with a diverse mix, there are also some specific deterrents to booking a visit. The following list shows that some of these have remained consistent, but there are some further points raised in the 2019 feedback compared with a year earlier (Table 18).

Table 18 Deterrents stopping UK tourists visiting the United States

Deterrent2019 (%)2018 (%)
Airfare too expensive34
United States too expensive2444
Concern for personal safety1816
Strict security policies16
Better destinations exist1515
Not enough vacation time available1514

The cost is clearly seen as an issue, but note that the airfare has been picked out as a specific deterrent for UK travelers, and, overall, the United States is seen as an expensive destination. For the UK, there has been some uncertainty since the Brexit referendum in 2016, and the value of the pound sterling against other currencies, including the U.S. dollar, has had an impact on spending. For instance, the pound had been depreciating against the U.S. dollar for some years, falling by a further 13 percent by the end of 2018. It will be interesting to see how much the rates change from 2020 onwards as the UK has now left the EU. Note the later reference to the impact of exchange rates when deciding where to go in the future.

Around 20 percent of UK tourists use social media to plan and book their trip, with 17 percent opting for a prepaid package deal that includes all their preferred activities, so still a large percentage prefer to book individual parts of their trip separately. On average, they will spend nine nights in the United States, quite a short stay compared with other nationalities, but trips to New York City, for instance, are generally viewed as a short break either for shopping or to enjoy a specific event.

Summary of Main Features of Inbound Travel from Country Profiles

The following examples summarize significant features about travel to the United States from a selection of countries that see it as a key destination.

The U.S. share of long-haul travel from the UK declined from 24 percent in 2015 to 21 percent in 2018, although numbers have started to increase again from 2019. In 2018, there were 2.7 million visitors from the UK, spending an average $4,241 per person. By 2018, however, visits from the United States to the UK increased, representing a bigger spend by them at $16.7 billion.

Poland is one of the fastest-growing inbound travel markets, with visits by Polish tourists increasing year on year by around 5 percent for five consecutive years. In fact, the U.S travel industry predicts that visitor numbers from Poland are likely to continue to increase, rising by 233,000 over the next three years.

The 3 million Chinese visitors in 2018 represent 7.5 percent of inbound travel to the United States from overseas. The differences between the Chinese traveler to the United States and other nationals seem to be accounted for by the greater importance of education and business as the primary purpose, together representing around a third of all trips. Despite this as the stated reason behind the trip, the main activities once there are shopping (86 percent), sightseeing (79 percent), visiting museums and national monuments around 40 percent each.

There were 2.1 million German visitors in 2018, representing 5.2 percent of inbound travelers, although this means they have dropped from their position in the previous year. While the number of German visits to the United States has declined overall since 2016, and is expected to stay flat during 2019, there is some suggestion that it may grow a little during 2020. (US Travel Association 2019). Table 19 shows that the main activities for German visitors during their stay have changed little since 2017.

Table 19 Main activities by German tourists visiting the United States

Activities during their stay in the United States2018 (%)2017 (%)
Shopping8483
Sightseeing8082
Visits to national parks and monuments4145
Visiting small towns4041
Historical locations3636

German visitors to the United States went mainly to New York (31 percent) and California (24 percent) and rated sixth in the number of tourists visiting New York City (see Chart 10). A particular attraction that appealed to the German traveler was stated as an opportunity to “experience nature,” so this is an important element of content before making a final choice of destination. On average, a German tourist will stay for 11 nights in the United States, mainly for a vacation (58 percent), and 12 percent saw it as one of the top bucket list destinations. The primary reason for visiting has changed little between 2017 and 2018, according to feedback from travel agencies in the United States (Table 20).

Table 20 Primary reason for trip to the United States from Germany

Primary reason for trip2018 (%)2017 (%)
Vacation5858
To visit friends and relatives1918
Business1413
Convention or trade show 5 6
Education 3 3
Other 1 2

The impressions they have of a visit to the United States is that it is a diverse mix of people, who are adventurous and forward-thinking and friendly. The main activities they take part in are typical of tourists from other countries and, again, have varied little between 2017 and 2018. Shopping in the United States consistently appears near the top of the list of activities irrespective of currency exchange rate difficulties.

Note that more U.S. residents visited Germany (3 million) than German tourists visited the United States (2.1 million) in 2019, and German tourists spent more money on their trip than U.S. citizens did when visiting Germany.

Japan is the second largest inbound market, with 3.5 million visitors in 2018, a fall from earlier years but now showing signs of increasing from 2019. The same number of Japanese travelers visited the United States in 2018 as all the countries of Western Europe, so the United States is by far the top destination for Japanese travelers. 46 percent visited Hawaii, 16 percent California, and 8 percent New York.

Although visits to the United States are continuing to grow year on year, there are still some things that act as a deterrent to Japanese tourists. These include the cost of airfare and the vacation being too expensive, stated by 46 percent in 2019, and 30 percent of potential visitors not having enough holiday time available from work, generally a higher proportion than travelers from other countries. The primary purpose of their trip is stated as vacation by 71 percent of visitors and business by 13 percent, generally spending an average of four nights in the United States. As with other visitors to the United States, sightseeing, shopping, and guided tours are high on the list of activities they participate in, connecting with nature appearing high on the list of what they are looking for when considering booking a trip.

Australia is in the 9th position (11th if you include Canada and Mexico) for inbound tourist numbers, being the highest spending visitors at $6,000 on average. Australians spend on average 14 nights when traveling to the United States, 45 percent visiting California, 27 percent visiting Hawaii, 23 percent visiting New York, and 31 percent visiting Los Angeles.

Australian tourists ranked 6th in the number of visitors to New York City, and the United States represents a 7 percent share of outbound travel from Australia. The primary purpose of a trip to the United States is vacation or visiting friends and relations. The main content they look for when making their final choice of destination is access to urban attractions, shopping, beaches, cultural and historical attractions and experiencing the local lifestyle, so little has changed year on year (Table 21).

Table 21 Activities during a visit to United States by Australian tourists

Activities during visit2018 (%)2017 (%)
Shopping9192
Sightseeing9191
National parks and monuments5456
Guided tours4950
Visiting small towns4443
Historical locations4245
Art gallery and museums3840

In feedback to tour operators, a third of potential tourists from Australia cited poor exchange rates as a deterrent to booking a trip. However, 34 percent still say the United States is among the leading desired destinations, including a visit to New York City – Chart 10.

Chart 10 Tourists visiting New York City 2018

Travel from India represents $15.8 billion and is in the eighth position for inbound tourists, with 1.38 million visitors. There is steady growth in the number of visitors from India. For trips to the United States, travelers from India are among the highest spenders, compared with other nationals visiting, and the average length of a stay is 15 nights. 30 percent of travelers from India visited California, 29 percent New York, and 12 percent Texas. The primary purpose of their visit to the United States tends to be something other than vacation, and India is second only to China in the number of nationals studying there. Despite the focus on business as a primary purpose of the visit, shopping and sightseeing are still high on the list of activities, with activities changing little from the previous year (Table 22).

Table 22 Primary purpose of visit to United States from India

Primary purpose of visit to United States2019 (%)2018 (%)
Business3639
Visit friends and family3131
Vacation1514
Attend a trade show12 9
Education 6 6

If we look at the U.S. market and visitors from India, the average age of those booking is younger than from any other inbound tourist country at 39 years. However, there are often larger family groups traveling together with extended family, so the mature market is still there (though potentially reduced).

Visits from Mexican tourists grew by 3.9 percent in 2018, accounting for 23 percent of international visits, with 18.5 million overnight stays. In 2018, the United States, as a destination, represented 83 percent of outbound travel from Mexico. For travel to the United States, Mexico is actually the second largest inbound market, after Canada, the majority of visitors crossing the border by land and only 15 percent by air (although this increased by 9.6 percent in 2018). 21 percent of travelers from Mexico visited California, 18 percent visited Texas, and 18 percent Florida. By the beginning of 2020, with discussions about installing a physical wall between the United States and Mexico, it is not clear what impact this will have on visitor numbers.

Canada is the highest inbound travel sector, with 21.5 million stays in 2018 excluding day trips, still a significant number but declining from previous years. Two-thirds of Canadians have visited the United States in the last five years, and 39 percent have stated they would be interested in visiting in the next two years. Figures also suggest that over half the number of trips made by Canadian tourists were to the United States.

Top Destinations and Trends Identified by U.S. Travel Agents

The leading international destinations in 2017, according to the volume of sales by tour operator members of USTA, were Mexico, Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Switzerland, and Australia.

Italy was named the most popular destination for U.S. travelers in 2019. The top 10 “hot” destinations for 2020 also included Iceland, which ranked second, followed by Japan, Vietnam, Australia, France, Spain, Colombia, Cambodia, and Portugal.

Travel agents identified the top destination categories for U.S. travelers in 2019 as follows, noting the significant increase in plans to visit Europe (Table 23).

Table 23 Destination categories booked through travel agents for 2019

Destinations booked through U.S. travel agents
Europe41%
The Caribbean20%
Asia and the Middle East11%
South America and Central America22%
Other 6%

Members of USTOA identified their top 10 off-the-beaten-path or emerging destinations that they see gaining popularity in 2019. Iceland ranked first, Cambodia second, followed by Croatia, Colombia, Vietnam, Portugal, Bhutan, Bolivia, Myanmar, and Ethiopia, adding up to a very wide range of potential destinations that appear to support the need for action on “overtourism”.

There was some interesting feedback concerning the American perception of travel to India. Only 4 percent said they would like to visit India for the spring break, presumably owing to concerns about distance and cost, although 7 percent would consider a vacation in India. A greater number, at 24 percent, said their perception of India as an attractive travel destination had improved, so the picture is not quite so bleak.

The World demographic profile in Table 1 shows the U.S. population breakdown of around 70 percent under 55 years old and 30 percent aged over 55, and hence a significant mature sector in actual numbers. USTA found that 51 percent of the U.S. population classed as baby boomers preferred to look for domestic destinations within the United States, thus contributing to the 80 percent domestic travel spending. In the travel and tourism industries, nearly half (48 percent) of customers arranging some form of travel through them (USTOA 2018) are aged 51 to 70, only 20 percent of customers aged 36 to 50.

There are some interesting differences in popularity of domestic destinations between 2017 and 2018, so it would be particularly interesting to see how these changed for 2019–2020 (Table 24).

Table 24 Top domestic destinations in U.S 2017–2018 (based on sales)

Destinations 2017Destinations 2018
CaliforniaAlaskan cruise
HawaiiOrlando
New YorkLas Vegas
FloridaNew York City
NevadaHonolulu
ArizonaHawaiian cruise
AlaskaMiami
ColoradoWashington, DC
U.S. Virgin IslandsLos Angeles

In terms of the average cost of a week’s summer vacation, American tourists spend more than other nationals (irrespective of where they visit), at $1692.93, closely followed by Switzerland, Germany, and the UK spend of $1407.26 (Chart 11, Statista 2020).

Chart 11 Cost per week for summer holiday/vacation

The United States is one of the biggest spenders on business travel, at $292.29 billion, a growth of 6 percent, and 74 percent plan their business trip via the Internet.

The U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) provided a range of travel and tourism packages to 9.8 million travelers in 2018. They noted in a recent member survey that nearly half of their customers, 48 percent, were aged over 51 and that European destinations were increasingly being booked by U.S. travelers.

Canada Travel Profile

As with some of the other country profiles, Canada is made up of a diverse business and social background, with a $1.8-trillion economy and a population of 37.5 million (US Travel Association 2019). It too has a significant aging population, with nearly a third aged over 55 and almost double the world demographic picture with 18.10 percent aged over 65.

Around 90 percent of the population lives within 100 miles of the Canada/U.S. border, with 21.5 million visits to the United States in 2018, not including day trips, so the United States remains at the top of the list of preferred destinations for Canadian tourists. There is some evidence that the mature traveler prefers to visit nearby United States, particularly the south (Florida) for the sun, rather than travel farther afield worldwide.

The majority of Canadians (56 percent) travel to the United States overland, with 44 percent arriving by plane. Once they arrive, air travel is preferred, although 51 percent also said they likely to drive between cities. Visiting friends and family is one of the main reasons they choose to visit, but restaurants and food always appear high on the list of things they are looking for.

The top reason for not visiting the United States is the currency exchange rate, which makes it expensive for Canadian tourists, along with concerns about national politics and personal safety—often quoted as concerns by travelers generally but not usually as the main criteria. However, there have been attempts to overcome the problem of currency fluctuations along some of the border states, including offering to accept the same number of Canadian dollars for the prices stated in U.S. dollars.

Canada is in the third position for the number of tourists that visited New York City. The number of visits has been declining as trips to other destinations have increased by 7 percent, overall, and trips to some destinations such as Italy by significant numbers (Table 25).

Table 25 Increase in share of visits to top five destinations from Canada 2013–2018 (USTA)

Destination% share 2013% share 2018
United States6454.9
Mexico4.3 5.2
Cuba 3 3.6
France2.7 2.8
Italy1.6 2.6

Although these figures represent the share of overall outbound travel, the picture looks different in terms of the actual number of visitors to destinations. Note also that there is a difference in the way outbound travel is defined between Canada, the United States, and Mexico in relation to classification as “long-haul.” For example, Table 26 identifies the increase in travel from Canada to long-haul destinations with no mention of the United States.

Table 26 Increase in number of visitors to long-haul destinations from Canada

Long-haul outbound destinations% increase
Italy+75
Cuba+29
Mexico+28
Dominican Republic+28
China+24
UK+16
France+11

There are many reasons for increased travel to certain destinations that are not necessarily straightforward, of course, whether it is improved flight routes, easier access to the country (such as Cuba), or increased levels of disposable income. It is also likely that increased use of online platforms to search for and book travel, and better marketing use of these platforms, has a direct impact on numbers. These issues are discussed in later chapters.

Image 5 Blue lake in Canada [Photo by Johny Goerend]

Mexico Travel Profile

Mexico has been included in this section because it appears frequently on lists of destinations visitors have traveled or would travel to, and they are a growing market for future tourist activity. There were 41 million inbound travelers to Mexico in 2018, spending $22.4 billion and making it the seventh largest global market. Even though this is such a considerable source of income for the country, there has been a shift away from the provision of a Mexico Tourism Board (having closed many of its offices overseas) to relying on a range of other private organizations for marketing and promotion to potential travelers. It remains to be seen (in 2020) how this will affect tourist numbers, particularly given the perceived concerns about crime and personal safety, but it presents a considerable opportunity for tour operators and travel agents worldwide to develop strategies to increase tourist visits to Mexico.

It is a growing economy, perhaps slowing down a little from 2019, with a diverse offering to global markets. They have more free trade agreements arranged, with 46 countries, than any other nation.

From a mature travel perspective, they have a younger demographic profile, with the 55+ age group at just 15.77 percent, a similar profile to that of India. For those who do travel from Mexico, 37 percent use social media to help them plan a trip, but only 6 percent choose a package deal, preferring to arrange the content of the visit themselves.

Travelers are looking mainly for trips to theme parks, having family fun with good hotels and restaurants. The primary purpose stated for the trip is vacation, then visiting family and friends, which has changed little from the previous year. Those who travel to the United States by air, suggested to be those with more disposable income, stay an average of six nights (Table 27).

Table 27 Primary purpose of trip to United States from Mexico

Primary purpose of trip2018 (%)2017 (%)
Vacation5350
Visiting friends and family2123
Business1716
Visit to a convention or trade show 5 7
Education 3 2
Other 1 2

Although shopping (83 percent) and sightseeing (65 percent) remain the most popular activities—Mexican visitors ranking 10th in the number of tourists visiting New York City—experiencing fine dining is listed by around a fifth of visitors from Mexico.

Of more significance for the U.S. travel market is the outline of things that deter Mexican tourists from visiting the United States (Table 28).

Table 28 Things that deter tourists from Mexico visiting United States

Deterrents from visiting United States2018 (%)2017 (%)
Poor currency exchange rates3244
Unhappy about U.S. politics2934
Too expensive2635
Security policies26
Cost of airfare22
Don’t feel welcome in the United States2224
Personal safety2022

Although the later year includes more criteria than in 2017, the concerns about not feeling welcome and personal safety still amount to over 40 percent of respondents. The cost of airfare plus the overall cost of a visit being “too expensive” is identified by 48 percent of potential visitors, more than the 35 percent stated the previous year.

Australia Travel Profile

Since the 1980s, Australia has been developing in the context of business, economy, and real growth in GDP to become one of the most diverse economies in the world. It has a wealth of natural resources to build on and even with the occasional slowing down of perceived growth, still continues to move forward. From a tourism perspective, the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar (2012–2015) did make travel to the United States particularly expensive, but 1.4 million visitors still found the United States an attractive destination.

Overall, visits overseas have increased by 18 percent over the last five years.

The top five destinations, along with share in numbers of tourists visiting these destinations since 2015, are shown in Tables 29 and 30, with Indonesia and New Zealand ranked more highly than the United States as a preferred destination.

Table 29 Most popular destinations and share of outbound tourism from Australia 2015–2018

Popular destinations for Australian touristsIncrease/decrease 2015–2018 (%)
Indonesia+60
France+34
New Zealand+13
Italy+13
United States6
UK4

Source: Tourism Economics and U.S. Department of Commerce (for U.S. arrivals)

Table 30 Share of number of outbound tourists from Australia

Destination2015% share 2018% shareVisits in millions
Indonesia 79.41.8
New Zealand8.4 81.5
United States9.27.31.4
UK6.65.31.0
Italy5.14.90.9
Total outbound travel numbers18.7 

Guided tours are an important part of the package they are looking for and a significant proportion of visitors, 27 percent, use social media to help plan a trip, with 9 to 10 percent opting for a package deal rather than booking individual elements.

Japan Travel Profile

As a highly developed diverse economy, worth $4.9 trillion, Japan is a big contributor to the U.S. economy through travel and tourism as the top destination for Japanese travelers, 3.5 million visiting the United States in 2018—almost the same number that visited the whole of Western Europe in the same period.

The main content they are looking for from a trip is dining out, visiting cultural and historical attractions, shopping, and experiencing the local lifestyle. Whereas 16 percent use social media to plan the trip, almost half (46 percent) prefer to book a complete package online or with a travel agent.

It is clear from Table 31 that many long-haul destinations are being seen less favorably than in previous years, but these figures relate to travel data up to 2018. It remains to be seen how far numbers have increased by the end of 2020 and which countries join or leave the list of most popular destinations.

Table 31 Top five long-haul destinations for Japanese travelers

DestinationVisitors in millions 2015Visitors in millions 2018% change +/
United States3.883.497.9
Germany0.650.615.3
France0.680.5617
Spain0.610.559.3
Australia0.340.47+37
Total long-haul travel9.89.61.8

The demographic profile for Japan presents some real concerns at every level in society. It is an aging population with 30,000 centenarians (Silver Travel Advisor 2020), although their fitness levels are generally considered to be impressive for these age groups.

33 percent of the population are over 60

28 percent are over 65

20 percent are over 70.

Tourist visits to Japan have been increasing steadily over the last 10 years, as you can see from Chart 12, so inbound tourism has a lot of potential to develop further.

Chart 12 Increase in inbound tourist numbers and spend

The number of incoming tourists has risen from 6.22 million in 2011 to 28.9 million in 2017 and spending by visitors is almost five times greater in that period, going from 0.81 to 4.42 thousand Japanese yen. More recent events, such as hosting World Cup sports competitions, have made an even greater impact on income from tourism. The example later in the book shows how effective their strategy has been in attracting new tourists.

At the beginning of 2020, the impact of the coronavirus in the Far East is rapidly bringing tourism and travel to an unprecedented low as governments and medical professions try to halt its spread. Unfortunately, long-haul travel, including flights and cruise ships, is particularly at risk because of the close proximity of travelers over long journey times—a critical risk for all operators and providers of services to the travel industry.

China travel profile

There is no doubt that China is an important player when considering tourism, both inbound and outgoing, with a growing economy ($13.6 trillion 2019) and a population of 1.4 billion. As with other countries globally, they are experiencing a growth in the older sectors of the community alongside a long-term tradition of limited birth rates. The “world demographics” table, at the beginning of the book, clearly shows how different their demographic profile is compared with many other major economies of the world. However, other factors such as the number of families who choose to travel with multigeneration members will have an impact on strategies chosen to target mature Chinese travelers.

There is an increase in the number of Chinese nationals who hold a passport and travel to long-haul destinations, growing by 4.3 percent overall in 2018, with a spread of countries visited. Table 32 shows the top five choices of long-haul destination, with a decline in the number of visits to the United States, but, as you can see, this still only represents around half of the countries visited.

Table 32 Top five long-haul destinations for Chinese travelers 2015–2018

Destination2015 share (%)2018 share (%)Number of travelers in 2018 in millions
United States15.312.9 3.0
France12.89.22.1
Russia 6.79 2.1
Germany 8.16.91.6
Australia6 6.21.4
Other51.155.8 12.9 
Total long-haul travel23.1 

The four main destinations that did grow in popularity included those listed in Table 33.

Table 33 Travel destinations and % increase in number of visitors from China 2018

Travel destinations and % increase
UAE+10.7%
Australia+5.5%
Switzerland+5.3%
Germany+2.5%

When planning a trip, 35 percent of Chinese travelers use social media, and 18 percent choose a package deal that includes nature experiences, ecotourism, culture, and history as important elements of the content of trips. When visiting the United States, the activities they take part in have changed a little between 2017 and 2018, although the primary purpose of the trip is consistent, with 33 to 34 percent as a vacation and around a quarter to visit friends and family.

Until early 2020, there were major issues facing the travel and tourism industries and China as a destination. There is widespread concern for health, personal safety of Chinese nationals visiting outside their country, and restrictions and cancellations of flights and travel packages. Even before the coronavirus outbreak currently associated with China, there was a fall in tourist activity in Hong Kong and widespread political unrest, which does not help when trying to promote the country as a potential destination for mature travelers (Chart 13, statista.com/Hong Kong Tourist Board).

Chart 13 Decline in number of tourists visiting Hong Kong 2019

India Travel Profile

India is seen as one of the fastest-growing travel markets in the world, with a population of 1.4 billion, which is likely to grow to be the world’s largest population within the next decade, and an estimated $2.7-trillion economy (US Travel Association 2019). The biggest shift since the 1950s has been from a primarily agricultural economy to one where this is now closer to 15 percent, industry sectors around 33 percent, and service sector at 52 percent.

Travel and tourism have been a key element of the Indian economy, contributing $208.9 billion in 2016 and making India the second highest contributor in Asia-Pacific, second only to China and followed by Thailand. The numbers of Indian nationals traveling overseas as tourists is clearly significant, growing by 31 percent between 2015 and 2018, and 9.3 percent in just one year to 2018.

The number of visits by Indian tourists to many destinations has risen significantly since 2018 and continues to grow at an impressive rate (Table 34).

Table 34 Rise in tourist numbers outbound from India to 2018

Destinations for outbound touristsNumber of tourists (in millions)% rise
UAE2.5830
Thailand1.6 49
Saudi Arabia1.44 5.5
United States1.3820
Bahrain1.04 45.4
Overall increase in outbound travel 31.1

There are many factors that influence growth in tourism including the search for new experiences such as a Riverboat trip (Image 6). For India, an important change was the introduction of an easier visa application procedure and an increase in the number of countries that could apply for an e-visa. Over five years this grew from just 11 to 161 in 2018, with the UK and the United States being the top two countries to use this new system. As you can see, this has led to a clear increase in revenue from tourist spending (Chart 14, Statista 2020).

Image 6 Riverboat in India [Photo by Kyran Low]

Chart 14 Effect of new visa procedures for travel to India

Although visitor numbers have continued to grow, there has also been a clear dip in numbers around 2012–2013, when personal safety became a serious concern with news of gang rape incidents escalating (Chart 15).

Chart 15 Impact of safety concerns for tourists to India 2013

As we are looking at the mature travel market, India presents some interesting issues for tour operators and travel providers. The demographic profile is somewhat different from the other major countries we have looked at so far. More than half the population in India is under 30 years old, with less than a quarter aged 45+. Although there are always exceptions, of course, the life expectancy in India is 68 years for men and 70 years for women.

Forty-three percent of visitors to the United States from India, for example, use social media to help plan a trip, and 12 percent choose a package deal. As with other countries, the cost of the trip is a deterrent to more than half of potential customers, and, in addition, poor exchange rates are cited as a deterrent by more than a quarter of respondents.

Germany Travel Profile

With a population of around 82 million, Germany ranks 17th in population globally and 19th based on GDP (just behind Hong Kong and just ahead of Belgium), so it is, clearly, a significant market in relation to travel and tourism. As in Japan and many other countries worldwide, the population growth rate has slowed, and the number of older people in society is growing (Table 35).

Table 35 Top long-haul destinations for German tourists 2015–2018 (US Travel Association 2019)

DestinationVisits in millions 2015Visits in millions 2018% change in number of visits
United States2,2852,0629.7
Egypt1,0211,638+60.5
Thailand 762 890+16.8
UAE 644 752+16.7
China 623 655+5
Total long-haul travel11,60613,542+16.7

Potential long-haul destinations from Germany have shown a significant increase over a three-year period of around 17 percent, the United States still retaining the largest share, although reduced from previous years. For instance, travel from Germany to Egypt increased by a substantial 60.5 percent, to Thailand and to UAE by almost 17 percent each, and to China by 5 percent.

Only around 10 percent of potential German tourists used social media to help with decision-making, and just 9 percent opted for a package deal. Hence, it appears that more German tourists are looking for the individual parts that make up a trip, such as with Expedia, rather than a full package deal (expedia.com 2020).

Clearly, Germany remains a substantial market for overseas travel and, just as important, for travel within Europe and into neighboring countries (see notes on Poland).

Poland Travel Profile

A profile of Poland has been included here because it represents a later arrival to the EU, and it is seen as an increasingly significant player in global travel, both inbound and as a target market for other destinations.

Since Poland became a member of the EU, its travel and tourism sectors have increased significantly. This is partly because of its EU membership, and therefore accessibility, but also because of its competitive prices and a growing provision of health, wellness, and spa facilities. Just as critical for the Polish travel market has been its admission into the Visa Waiver Program in 2019 and therefore potential increase in travel to the United States.

Image 7 Ship moored on river in Poland [Photo by Anna Gru]

In 2018, there were 19.6 million tourists visiting Poland and 66.3 million day-visitors, around one-third aged over 55 (stat.gov.pl). In total, including Polish and overseas tourists, there were 34 million arrivals at tourist overnight accommodation in 2018. The majority of visitors are from neighboring Germany, 34 percent of these as tourists staying more than one night and over 40 percent just for the day. Most tourists stay in hotels, motels, or boarding houses. Overnight stays in the three main cities of Warszawa, Krakow, and Kolobrzeski amounted to 6.4 million, 5.6 million, and 5.1 million, respectively.

Of foreign tourists visiting during the main July and August period, 19 percent stayed at coastal resorts, 6 percent in mountain areas, but the bulk, 75 percent, stayed in other parts of Poland. Visitors to Poland are primarily from nearby or European countries, with just a few from farther afield, including the United States and Israel (Table 36).

Table 36 Nationality of visitors to Poland 2018

Visitors to Poland 2018% (approx.)
Germany26 
France, Spain, and Italy10 
UK8
Ukraine7
Sweden and Norway5
United States5
Russia4
Israel 3.5
Latvia 2.5
Other24

In 2018, 61.9 percent of Polish residents made at least one tourist trip, the average being 3 trips per year, which was a 10.5 percent increase on the number of trips made in 2017. Two million outbound trips in 2018 were to Germany. Long-haul destinations for Polish travelers have changed in 2018 compared with 2017, and this is likely to change still further in 2019 (Table 37, figures available only up to 2018 on stat.gov .pl at the time of writing).

Table 37 Top long-haul destinations from Poland and numbers of tourists

Long-haul destinations20182017
Egypt220,000 150,000 
United States211,000 200,000 
China 90,000 85,000
Canada 48,000 50,000
Morocco 46,000 52,000
Cuba 40,000 40,000

Although the number of trips to Morocco and Canada have reduced, visits to China, the United States, and Egypt have shown a significant increase—an all-time high for visits to the United States.

Clearly, Poland is an emerging destination for travelers, with the potential to increase its inbound tourist numbers significantly as it develops wider recognition as an attractive place to visit. It also has a growing base of potential tourists looking for other destinations to visit as their outbound numbers are increasing year on year.

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