Many people’s dream vacations involve travel to distant, exotic lands. But the reality is that most people take their holidays close to home. Europeans, for example, tend not to stray very far, generally seeking out the nearest sunny spot at home or in the near abroad.
A new survey by the European Commission found that EU residents generally stay in their home country during their time off—57% of people in the EU last year took a trip within their own country. More than 80% of Greeks, Croatians, and Italians took time off close to home in 2013, while Maltese, Belgians, and Luxembourgers were much more keen to go abroad, with fewer than 30% reporting that they took a domestic holiday last year.
Almost half of European holidaymakers said they seek sun and beaches when they go on vacation, which explains why most EU residents head south when they leave their home country, as shown in the map above. Some 15% of all EU residents spent time on holiday in Spain last year, the most popular destination ahead of France (11%) and Italy (10%), according to the survey.
Interestingly, while the map shows the most common international vacation destination for residents in each country, that’s not the same as travelers’ favorite holiday spots. A separate question asked where people took their “main” holiday, meaning the one trip that was most important to them in 2013. On this point, some differences emerge between where people most commonly go on holiday and where they prefer to get away. Finns and Estonians, for example, are most often seen crossing the gulf to spend time in each other’s countries, but a greater share of travelers in both places say they prefer sunny Spain. It’s a similar story for Germans, who most commonly go to Austria but would also, apparently, rather be in Spain.
And spare a thought for those people who say that any sort of holiday, even one close to home, is off the cards this year—11% of EU residents say that it will be all work and no play in 2014, thanks to lousy economic conditions. Last year, 6% of respondents report that they didn’t take any trips (for personal reasons). It’s no surprise that people in Europe’s hardest-hit economies, including Greece, Cyprus, and Spain, show the largest shares of people who won’t go on vacation this year. The hordes of Brits, Germans and other northerners flocking to the beach can keep them company (and boost their local economies), but this probably won’t do much to cheer them up.