Exposed: the myth of our exotic holidays

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The Independent Travel

Taking a holiday to one of the world's more exotic destinations is often paraded as the ultimate opportunity for self-styled globe-trotters to see the Seven Wonders, sample a host of international culinary delights and improve their language skills.

But a survey has blown a hole in the apparent culture-vulture pretence behind which thousands of Britons appear to be hiding. Contrary to what they would have you believe when they return home with tales of communing with the locals, most tourists on such a holiday barely leave the hotel, rarely visit popular landmarks and almost never use the local language. The research, from Halifax Holiday Insurance, says most Britons shelling out for luxury exotic holidays spend their time in the bubble of their resort.

The findings reveal that the average British holidaymaker spends no more than seven hours away from their hotel throughout the duration of their trip; almost three-quarters never attempt the local language; and 70 per cent never visit a local attraction. Instead we prefer to spend our days lazing, often asleep, by the hotel pool. Come the evening, most Britons will shun local food and drink offered by foreign bars and restaurants, instead preferring to drink in the hotel bar and eat in the resort's catering establishments.

Paul Birkhead, the senior underwriting manager at Halifax Travel Insurance, said: "Our research strongly suggests that the idea of a holiday, to most, is a room with pool and somewhere to eat. Package holidays such as all-inclusive allow Brits to arrive and stay put for the duration, and it certainly makes financial sense to make the most of the facilities as this is what you are paying for. The findings have highlighted what a bunch of 'culture vultures' we Brits are not."

The survey was based on responses from 2,053 Britons, and showed that 4.3 million people a year take packages to exotic destinations, with Egypt the most popular. It suggests that with 800,000 of these holidays termed "all-inclusive"– with food and drink included as part of the package – any cultural experiences exotic, unspoilt locations can offer are often bypassed.

But the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) says to suggest Britons abroad are "unadventurous" is "simply not the case". Sean Tipton, of Abta, said: "In the 1960s, this survey would have been accurate because then 95 per cent of people going abroad would simply sit by the pool or on the beach and top up their tans, but nowadays that isn't the case. Brits have been going abroad for about 40 years and our holidaying habits are incredibly varied. Sometimes, sitting by a pool and relaxing for a week is fine, but most of the time we want something more adventurous. Most people will make an effort and go out to visit a local landmark such as a cathedral and most will also visit a local restaurant.

"I agree most people don't speak the language when they go abroad, but if the survey is saying we don't leave our hotels we don't agree and it's certainly not the experience of our members selling holidays."