Backpackers ditch adventure for tried and tested holidays

Britain's backpackers are playing it safe in their quest for adventure by swapping off-the-beaten-track destinations for tried and tested favourites.

While as recently as last year faraway countries such as Brazil, Chile, Peru, Cuba and Japan figured high on the wish-list of places that adventurous travellers wanted to visit, a new survey reveals that old favourites such as Greece, Spain, Italy and India are now prime destinations.

And having dropped out of the top 10 last year, the United States has made a return as the second most popular destination - partly driven by a favourable exchange rate.

A study by the guidebook company Lonely Planet has discovered a marked decrease in the number of travellers planning trips to out-of-the-way destinations.

"We have seen a resurgence in places like Australia and New Zealand, which are a trip of a lifetime, so many people are putting their plans back for another year to save up for the big trip," said Tom Hall, Lonely Planet's travel information manager.

"The figures for people who said they had plans to stay at home include those with plans to travel within the United Kingdom.

"There's clearly a resurgence in people wanting to holiday at home, especially after some of the debate that has been going on this year about the harmful effects of flying and travel on the environment.

"People are thinking more about staying at home, having some weekends away and exploring their own back yard a bit.

"Britain is certainly more of a popular destination than it has been for a while."

Although Australia remains the country that most Britons would like to visit, other long-haul destinations such as Brazil and Chile, which were the second and third choices last year, have been replaced by the United States and Thailand.

"There has definitely been a surge in people travelling to the 'old favourites', countries such as the United States, Spain, Italy and Greece," Mr Hall said.

"These destinations have always been popular with Brits but factors such as cheaper air travel and the accessibility of long-haul destinations has meant that people have been travelling further afield.

"Fashionable destinations come and go but the classics remain."

The third most popular destination this year is Thailand, followed by Spain, New Zealand, India and Italy.

Greece was voted as eighth favourite place to go and Canada was in 10th place. Most surprisingly, the ninth most popular choice for travellers was to stay in Britain.

Lonely Planet believes its "travellers' pulse survey" is the world's most authoritive independent travel survey as it collects data from more than 33,000 respondents in 170 countries.

Among the reasons given for travel, about a third of respondents claim that the chance to escape their everyday lives was paramount in their decision to take off; 89 per cent said they wanted to "explore other cultures" and 79 per cent claimed they wanted to go somewhere they had never been before. Seventy-five per cent of respondents were female students or professionals, mostly aged 18-24, of whom 42 per cent had previously visited between 11 and 20 countries.

Mr Hall said: "A lot of travellers still want to go to Brazil, Peru or Chile but inevitably there are times when they are drawn back to the big, popular destinations such as the United States and Australia and that's what appears to have happened this year."