Travelers' Yearning for the Familiar: A Global Survey Reveals Surprising Trends


In a recent international survey conducted by YouGov, the travel habits of over 17,500 people from 15 different countries have been exposed, shedding light on a surprising trend among international tourists: a preference for familiarity over adventure.

The survey, commissioned by the Saudi Tourism Authority and released just ahead of this year's World Tourism Day in Riyadh, surveyed individuals from Asia, Africa, America, Europe, and the Middle East. The results reveal that approximately 66% of respondents prioritize traveling to destinations they are already familiar with. Moreover, 67% of those surveyed tend to travel to places they have either visited before or have heard about through their social network, including recommendations from family and friends.

While there were some variations in preferences among different regions, the trend of favoring familiarity was prevalent. Notably, 90% of tourists from Middle Eastern countries considered familiarity with the destination a key factor in their travel decisions. Conversely, tourists from countries like the United Kingdom (62%), France (75%), China (68%), and Japan (74%) were more comfortable with the idea of traveling to less familiar places.

The implications of this survey are significant. Destinations with developing tourism sectors that lack the financial resources for international promotional efforts may struggle to generate the familiarity that many tourists seek. On the other hand, well-established tourist destinations face the challenge of diverting visitors away from overcrowded hotspots to explore lesser-known regions.

These findings resonate with previous research that indicated 80% of tourists visit just 10% of the world's tourism destinations, underscoring the preference for familiar places and the need for more sustainable tourism practices worldwide.

Fahd Hamidaddin, Chief Executive Officer and a Member of the Board of the Saudi Tourism Authority, commented on the survey's findings, saying, "The findings of this international survey give us great insight into the trends and habits of global tourists and how important a sense of familiarity is to them when choosing destinations."

Hamidaddin also highlighted that while familiarity is essential, it doesn't mean destinations should compromise their authenticity. The research also supports the idea that visiting new places deepens appreciation for diverse cultures and fosters mutual understanding.

"I hope that, by highlighting how travel has the power to broaden perspectives, we will inspire more people to opt for less familiar destinations," Hamidaddin added.

These survey results align with recent initiatives by countries such as Croatia and France, which have implemented measures to manage tourism and minimize its impacts on their most popular destinations. Dubrovnik, Croatia, introduced the "Respect the City" campaign to control tourism, while French Tourism Minister Olivia Gregoire stressed the need for better management during peak seasons to preserve the environment, quality of life for locals, and the visitor experience.

Perhaps the most encouraging finding of the survey is that 83% of tourists who ventured to new destinations reported that the experience changed or broadened their perspective, highlighting the profound impact of tourism in connecting people and enhancing mutual understanding.

The YouGov survey was commissioned by the Saudi Tourism Authority ahead of this year's World Tourism Day (WTD), hosted in Riyadh from September 27th to 28th. WTD 2023, themed "Tourism and Green Investments," will bring together global tourism ministers, industry leaders, and experts to explore the role of tourism in driving prosperity, preserving cultures, safeguarding the environment, and promoting global harmony.

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