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2000-2020: The Events That Shaped Two Decades of Travel

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2000-2020: The Events That Shaped Two Decades of Travel

The end of 2019 saw us wave goodbye to another decade and marked 20 years since the new millennium in 2000. In that time, the world around us has changed vastly, with everything from iPhones and super-fast broadband to major political changes such as Brexit having a huge effect on the way we live our lives on a daily basis. But how has travel changed in that time? What major events have transformed the way we holiday?

At eShores, we wanted to mark the end of the last two decades by looking back at the major events that have shaped the way we approach taking a holiday. With social media, influence from television and film, plus much more to consider, it’s been a busy 20 years.

How British Travel Habits have Changed

Before looking at the events that have shaped our travel habits, we looked at how the numbers have changed throughout the years.

2000  There were 36.7 million visits made and a total of £24.3 billion spent by UK residents heading abroad on holiday. UK airports saw 178.6 million passengers pass through.

2005  Five years later, the number of foreign holidays taken by UK residents had jumped up to 44.2 million and the amount spent £32.2 billion. There was also a big increase in passengers from UK airports, with 226.9 million flying out.

2010 – The midway point of the last 20 years saw a slow in the number of foreign holidays as these dropped to 36.4 million and the amount spent to £31.8 billion. Air travel also took a hit, with passenger numbers down to 210.3 million.

2014  By 2014, numbers had begun to climb again and reached 38.5 million holidays abroad and a spend of £35.5 billion. Passenger numbers at UK airports rose to 238.3 million.

2018 – As the decade neared its conclusion, the number of foreign holidays reached an all-time high of 47 million, with spending hitting £45.4 billion and 292.1 million passengers flying out of UK airports.

These stats give us a good idea of our travelling habits over the last 20 years, with the number of foreign holidays taken by Brits increasing by nearly 10 million in that time.

The Birth and Growth of Social Media

There can be no doubt that the growth of social media has helped to define the last 20 years. People now connect through the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter more than ever, but how have these mediums helped shape the way we travel?

Just log on to Instagram and search ‘#travel’ and you’ll be presented with images of some of the most stunning scenery and inspiring shots of parts of the world you’ve never seen before. Add to this the influencing factor of ‘social proof’ from reading reviews, opinions and engaging in conversation via the likes of TripAdvisor, Facebook and Twitter, and the growth of social media has changed the way we think about holidays forever.

Here are some of the key events in social media that affected travel in the last 20 years.

  • Travel review site TripAdvisor was launched in 2000, with its first review published on 1st February 2001.
  • In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg introduced the Facebook social network. This allowed people to share photos, travel tips and stories. By the end of 2019, there were nearly 2.5 billion active users on the site.
  • 2010 saw the introduction of photo-sharing social network Instagram.
  • The first TripAdvisor iPhone app was launched in 2010 and a partnership with Facebook was also announced.
  • From humble beginnings above a pizza shop in Needham, Massachusetts, by 2015 TripAdvisor had 320 million reviews on the site and moved to a $120 million 290,000 square-foot headquarters.
  • 2015 survey found that 48% of users were using Instagram to help pick their next holiday destination and 35% were using it to discover new places.
  • ‘#travel’ was the third-top trending Instagram hashtag of 2018.
  • By the end of 2019 ‘#travel’ had been used over 465 million times to share pictures from traveller’s journeys.
  • The year before Instagram was launched, fewer than 1,000 people walked to the Norwegian rock formation of Trolltunga; at the end of 2019 it had been tagged in over 167,000 Instagram posts.
  • In 2019, almost 20 years after its inception, TripAdvisor had 460 million average monthly unique visitors to the site and over 830 million reviews covering 9.1 million hotels, restaurants, airlines attractions and more.

TV and Film ‘Set-Jetting’

The last 20 years have seen a boom in tourism fuelled by television and film. The number of people who pack their bags and head to the locations inspired by the latest blockbuster or their favourite Netflix binge has increased massively. Here are some of the biggest television and film events that inspired travel in the last two decades:

The Beach (2000)

Leonardo Di Caprio’s first film outing since Titanic saw him appear in the Danny Boyle directed film The Beach, about a traveller in Thailand. The film’s iconic soundtrack and cinematography inspired millions of tourists to visit the Maya Bay beach. It became so popular that it had to be temporarily closed in 2018 to allow it to recover.

Lord of the Rings (2001)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy may have been set in the fictional Middle Earth, but the actual filming locations are in New Zealand. So called ‘Tolkien Tourism’ led to an annual tourist increase of 40% between 2000 and 2006, going from 1.7 million to 2.4 million.

Mamma Mia (2008)

The hugely popular Mamma Mia film, featuring Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep, was made on the Greek island of Skopelos. This has contributed to a boom in tourism in Greece, seeing a huge increase in the number of visitors to the area and helping the Greek recovery after their financial crash. You can find out more about our Mamma Mia Greek Twin Centre trip here.

Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)

Since its debut in 2011, one of the biggest events in television history, Game of Thrones, has inspired travel to its many filming locations. Dubrovnik in Croatia, the setting of King’s Landing, has seen a surge in popularity. Similarly, filming locations in Northern Ireland, Iceland and Spain have been a huge draw for fans of the TV show. At eShores, we’ve curated our own Game of Thrones Spain and Croatia itinerary.

Global Events

There were several large-scale global events during the last 20 years that had a big effect on the way that people chose to holiday. From economic events to moments that shook the world, they all made us reassess how we approached our holidays, the places we chose to visit and how we got there.

The century began with a terrorist attack that sent shockwaves around the world, having a huge knock-on effect on tourism and air travel. It wasn’t to end there, as the following years were sadly punctuated by attacks all over the world, from Mumbai to London to Africa.

The last 20 years have also been struck by financial crashes and political unrest, all adding uncertainty to foreign travel and changing holidaymakers’ budgets.


The tragic events of September 11th, 2001, in New York City caused long-term damage to the tourist industry in the city. The aftermath saw a decline in visitors, going from 6.8 million in 2000 to 5.7 million in 2001. Most of the deficit in 2001 came immediately after 9/11. It took the city almost five years to get back to pre-9/11 levels, but it has continued to thrive since then. 2018 saw 13.5 million international visitors.

Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

On December 26th, 2004, tragedy struck in the Indian Ocean when an undersea earthquake caused a series of large tsunami waves, growing up to 30m tall. The disaster affected 14 countries, including Indonesia, Thailand and India, and caused widespread destruction, estimated at a cost of around $508 million. Many tourists were caught up in the tsunami, with more having to cancel trips to the area.

The area has made a remarkable recovery from the events. In Thailand, visitor numbers dipped to 11.6 million in 2005, however climbed to 13.8 million in 2006. In 2018, Thailand welcomed 38.3 million tourists.

Global Recession

The world was hit by a financial crisis in 2008, meaning that many markets crashed, and holidaymakers were dealing with tight budgets. Immediately following this recession, there was a 17% increase in British staycations and a decrease in outbound travel.

It wasn’t until 2014 when overseas visits from the UK began to increase again, a year that saw staycations decrease by 1.3% and foreign travel increase by 4%.

Icelandic Ash Cloud

In 2010, a series of volcanic eruptions in Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland caused an ash cloud which wreaked havoc on air travel in Europe. With worries that the ash would damage aircraft engines if they attempted to travel through it, much of the airspace around Europe was close.

The ash cloud caused the largest air-traffic shutdown since World War II. In the aftermath, figures showed that 107,000 flights were cancelled over an eight-day period, affecting roughly ten million passengers.

Arab Spring

The 2011 Arab Spring political uprisings in Egypt had a detrimental effect on visitor numbers from the UK to the country. Visitor numbers from the UK dropped to 47,000 in 2018 from a high of 186,000 in 1996.

The country saw a total number of foreign visitors drop from 9 million in 2011 to 5.4 million in 2016.


As the decade ended, Brexit and the full effects it would have were still very much unknown. In the immediate aftermath, UK’s decision to leave the European Union saw visitor numbers to the UK fall by 5.3% in 2018.

It remains to be seen how Brexit will truly affect the travel industry both inside and outside the UK.

Booking Holidays

As much as social media and websites such as TripAdvisor helped to shape the way people decided on their holiday destinations, the ease of access to the internet has also shaped the way that people book their holidays.


Those of us who are old enough will remember the days when shopping for holidays happened through pressing the button on your TV remote to access Teletext. As far back as 2001, it went online with its holiday offerings and, in 2012, Teletext shut down its dedicated TV channel.

Multi-Centre Trips

The thirst for adventure and wanderlust created by our changing perceptions of travel has led to a desire to visit more than one place in a trip. Multi-centre holidays offer travellers the opportunity to visit several locations as part of one longer holiday, cramming in more of the places they wish to see.

As a very rough estimate, eShores did around £1.4M of holidays in 2010, with much of this being made up by our multi-centre offerings. By the financial year 2019-20, this figure is estimated to be closer to £10M, with similar results expected in 2020-21.

Weekend Getaways

In recent years, the average length of a holiday has dropped from 10.3 nights in 2010 to 8.9 nights in 2018. This decrease can be attributed in part to the popularity and accessibility of European cities for a long weekend break. Poland has seen an increase from 30,000 UK visitors in 1996 to 526,000 in 2018, thanks to the popularity of cities like Krakow.


It’s fair to say that travel has changed dramatically in the last two decades, with new technology and popular culture helping spark wanderlust and inspire holidaymakers to discover new destinations. Despite the world events that have hit the tourism industry, many of these countries and resorts have fought back from adversity to start the 2020s on a stronger footing than ever before.



Office for National Statistics – Travel Trends Estimates: UK residents’ visits abroad

Office for National Statistics – Holidays in the 1990s and now 

TripAdvisor Investor Presentation November 2019

ABTA Holiday Habits Reports

Government Tourism: Statistics and Policy Paper

Gavin Lapidus Company Director

Gavin has been one of the directors at eShores since 2007. He came from a sales & marketing background, but always had a passion for travel. He has travelled to most places around the globe, including North and South America, Europe, the Far East, South Africa, Indian Ocean and Australia.

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