As perceived risk falls UK travellers flock to Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt

06 September 2018 4 min. read

With an extended uncertainty having taken hold of Britain in recent years, it comes as little surprise that many trapped on the island nation seek refuge overseas during the summer, taking a much needed break from the Brexit-orientated chaos at home. What may surprise many is that the destinations of choice favoured by the British public have come to include a number of North African and Middle Eastern destinations.

Even for a traditionally troubled regions, which have struggled to shrug off the legacy of colonialism and continued Western intervention, North Africa and the Middle East have seen a turbulent decade. The area which saw what is generally termed the “Arab Spring” – a series of anti-government uprisings in 2011 – has seen droughts, civil wars, military coups and the rise of Daesh – as well as a refugee crisis – in the time since.

According to travel analytics firm Forward Keys, this multitude of risks pushed many travellers away from the traditionally popular vacation destination. While this is unlikely to have been the top of anyone’s priorities in the region during an extended era of conflict, the consultancy has now revealed that tourists are broadly returning to the area, as for now, things seem to have stabilised.

British leisure travel is 4.9% ahead in summer 2018

According to the latest data, despite flagging productivity and stagnant wage growth, British leisure travel has improved through-out all seasons. It grew by 4.9% on last year’s summer figures, having already booked 4.6% year on year growth from winter 2016 to winter 2017.

The decline of people jet-setting to the likes of Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey in recent years has seen a glut of tourism for other countries with similar climates. This is particularly the case for Spain, which before this year commanded almost half of the short to mid-haul UK travel market. The figures of Forward Keys, compiled in co-operation with research analytics firm GFK, show that this is changing, however. Spain has lost 2.9% of its market share in the past 12 months, in stark contrast to the previously mentioned countries. Similarly, Portugal saw a 1.3% decline in visitors.

Impressively, Turkey has seen its share of UK international travel boosted by some 66%, with the portion of UK travellers now arriving at the destination standing at 11% of the mid-haul market. Turkey’s success seems to have been built on the consolidation of power of the Erdogan regime, which has stifled unrest and dissidence in the region. However, it is worth noting that this perceived stability at any cost could be on the verge of crumbling, with the nation facing down a currency crisis, and a poorly performing banking segment.

Scheduled air capacity from the UK, Q1 2014 to Q2 2018, quarterly YoY Variations

Tunisia was the fastest growing destinations gaining share, experiencing a 901% boost to its mid-haul market share. While the total portion of the market Tunisia holds still only stands at 0.7%, the country has plenty of room for growth, and seems to have settled into stable democratic life after an extended period of unrest. While corruption and border-tensions with neighbouring Libya remain, Tunisia is host to the most secure food supply in the whole continent of Africa – something which has pushed other countries in the region into clashes with previously untouchable regimes.

Another nation impacted by the Arab Spring, Egypt has seen a substantially less comfortable adaptation to change compared to Tunisia. The nation instead was subject to the violent overthrow of its duly elected Muslim Brotherhood government by the nation’s military. President Sisi, initially installed by the coup as a ruler before receiving a disputed electoral mandate four years later, in 2018 elections which saw him face only nominal opposition. Despite the details of his ascent to power, however, many private interests in the West have treated Sisi’s leadership as an opportunity, investing in the Egyptian economy. The stability this seems to have provided has further driven the popularity of the nation as a tourist destination.