What were the most popular holiday destinations in the 1950s?
Travelling abroad was a privilege for the few in the 1950s. In that decade only 7% of UK holiday makers went abroad.
The Spanish Costas were yet to draw in mass tourism. Benidorm only had one hotel at the start of the 1950s. People travelled closer to home. France was the favourite destination and Ireland was a close second.
Italy was the world's top tourist spot in the 1950s. It was Britain's number three. The top ten were:
- 1 France
- 2 Irish Republic
- 3 Italy
- 4 Switzerland
- 5 Belgium and/or Luxembourg
- 6= Spain
- 6= Austria
- 8 West Germany
- 9 The Netherlands (Holland)
- 10 Scandinavia
Why did people choose these countries? One reason was that they may have had friends or family there. A large Irish immigrant population in the UK helped put Ireland at number two. Other reasons were cost, convenience and established holiday patterns.
Traditionally people travelled by boat and train. Boat and coach services started before the Second World War. Air travel was too expensive for most people.
The two top destinations, France and the Irish Republic, were easy to get to by boat, as were Belgium and the Netherlands. There were established resorts in Switzerland, the South of France and Italy.
France and Italy provided beach holidays. But many people centred their holidays around lakes, mountains and rivers, rather than sunbathing.
How much did holidays cost?
The Polytechnic Touring Association organised trips to the UK's favourite destinations. Their 1952 brochure descibes a typical holiday in Lucerne, Switzerland. For £21 19s 6d you got seven nights in Lucerne (the price is in pounds, shillings and pence). You travelled by third class rail and boat from London and had full board accomodation. In today's money that would have been £422. If you wanted to travel by air it added an extra £16 10s 6d (or another £300 per person in today's money).