Buckingham Palace with crowds on the Mall

A recent (August 2023) survey for the Office of National Statistics among 2,000 UK adults found that overall 34% had travelled abroad in the previous eight weeks and experienced some kind of travel disruption. Among the travellers themselves this rose to nine out of ten.

Things may seem very bad now, but it should be remembered that foreign holiday travel has never been stress-free. A survey conducted in 1991 for BUPA by ARC/BMRB among 988 who had recently returned from a holiday found that while holidays were mostly enjoyable, stresses were encountered before, during and after the holiday itself. A report on the BUPA symposium held at the London Hilton on the subject was entitled ‘Does Your holiday Make You Sick?’ and the subsequent story in the Daily Express was entitled ‘Sunshine Breaks Pile On The Stress’.

In contrast to the 2023 realities, only 23% of overseas holidaymakers said in 1991 that they had suffered travel delays or problems such as airport queues or flight cancellations in the previous three years.  But as many as 73% said that on their last foreign holiday the whole process entailed at least some stress: for 33% it was in the preparation beforehand, with 21% worrying about the cost. On the holiday itself, 16% encountered poor services, 9% food and digestive problems, 6% poor accommodation, 6% sunburn or sunstroke and 4% theft or loss of belongings.  For 13% it had been spoiled by disputes among members of the family, and 12% reported sickness or injury.

But it didn’t stop there: as many as 30% found it difficult to adjust to normal life after they got back. People seem to need the holiday simply to recover from the stress of preparing for it, and after the holiday itself many need to recover from the stresses encountered while away.

Nevertheless, it should be added that as many as 83% said their 1991 holiday made them more happy, while only 3% complained it made them less so. With current levels of airline and airport disruption, one must ask if that is still true.


Contributed by Peter Bartram
Date posted: 19th September 2023


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