Britons 'take more and shorter breaks' than in mid-1990s

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Spain is still the most popular holiday destination, but the UAE and Iceland have risen in the ranks

Britons are taking more holidays than they used to but are opting for shorter breaks, an official survey suggests.

It also found that one-day "booze cruises" across the Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes are much less common than they used to be.

The Office for National Statistics found UK residents went on more than 45 million foreign holidays in 2016 - up from 27 million in 1996.

That represents a 68% rise in holidays over the last 20 years.

The ONS also said the most popular holiday destinations had largely remained the same between 1996 and 2016 - although visits to destinations including Germany and Dubai had shot up.

According to the ONS, one of the most likely explanations for UK residents going on more holidays than in the mid-90s is the growth of the budget airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair.

It also found a "marked decline" in the popularity of two-week holidays since 1996 and the rise of short breaks.

"The week-long break is a lot more popular than before, and there's also been an increase in the number of holidays lasting 10 nights," it said.

That said, the survey found UK residents were making far fewer day-trips abroad than they did 20 years ago.

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Image caption,
The rise in no-frills airlines has allowed us to take more trips abroad, the ONS said

One reason put forward is because many of those visits were "booze cruises" - journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes - which are no longer as cost-efficient.

"Duty-free sales within the EU ended in 1999, France has been ratcheting up the price of cigarettes since 2000, and in recent years the pound has fallen in value against the euro," the ONS said.

New options

According to the research, Spain was the most popular holiday destination, both last year and in 1996. However, visits in that time have shot up by 87%.

France remained second most popular, but visits fell 9% as fewer families used cross-Channel ferries.

New options have also entered the top 10, including trips to Germany, while holiday cruises are now four times as popular as they were 20 years ago.

"This could be due to an ageing UK population," the ONS said, "but cruise operators are also trying to extend their appeal to younger holidaymakers too."

According to the survey, holidays to the UAE have also jumped almost 20-fold, largely because of the popularity of Dubai.

Interest in Iceland has also jumped, potentially because a fall in the currency after the country's economic crisis has made it more affordable.

Besides France, only four countries with significant visitor numbers suffered a decline in the number of UK holidaymakers since 1996: Turkey, Egypt, Kenya and Tunisia.

The ONS said that all had experienced terror attacks in recent years.