June 18, 2024

Brits’ all-year sun obsession outshines holiday health and safety concerns

Air quality and respiratory health overlooked by British holidaymakers, as 84%* say they value sunshine over safety when travelling abroad – an oversight that’s impacting Brits’ lungs and hurting their wallets to the tune of £998m** a year

A new survey* released today reveals that the vast majority (84%) of British holidaymakers prioritise checking the weather forecast before travelling, while more insidious and dangerous factors, such as air quality or UV guidance, take a back seat.

Despite 3 in 5 revealing they’ve experienced breathing issues, the survey – commissioned by Avanti Travel Insurance in conjunction with the launch of new guidance on its website – found that a mere 13% take air quality into account when planning their holidays, while just 9% pay attention to UV guidance.

Other key findings include:


– a third (33%) of respondents have experienced breathing issues due to hay fever

– 17% reported experiencing breathing problems due to air pollution.

– a fifth (21%) of Londoners will check air quality before departure, the highest of any UK region.

– this lack of attention is costly, with 38% having spent an average of £37 seeking over the counter medical treatment or advice while on holiday.

– most (71%) forget to pack some medical items with sun-cream, pain relievers, antihistamines and first aid kits among the most frequently left-behind items.

– just 13% consider the prospect of civil unrest prior to jetting off, despite the latest Civil Unrest Index figure indicating that this is rising to unprecedented levels.


“Our obsession with getting a hefty dose of vitamin D while abroad is seeing Brits completely overlook other crucial factors that could have a serious impact on their health, safety and financial well-being,” said Kelly Johnstone, Head of Content.

She continued: “Surprisingly, the record-breaking heatwaves we saw engulf southern Europe, the southern US, and northern Africa this summer led to some British tour companies reporting a surge in bookings by sunseekers eager to enjoy the warmer climates. For others, headline-dominating temperatures have ignited valid concerns about the risk of wildfires, with some cancelling holidays as a result. What Britons are failing to realise is that the impact of air pollution on respiratory health is a year-round issue – especially for those with pre-existing conditions.”


The survey also highlights a generational difference in attitudes, with travellers aged 18-24 (21%) more likely to check air quality compared to those aged 55+ (6%), who are more concerned with weather forecasts (93%).


Respiratory experts, Professor Frank Kelly of Imperial College London noted: “Unfortunately, tourists seeking leisure and recreation in a whole host of holiday destinations can come up against a diverse variety of airborne particles and noxious gases that are associated with ill health, even after short-term (hours/days) exposures.This is especially the case for vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly and people with cardiorespiratory disease.

He continued: “With a city break may come unhealthy emissions from road traffic, industry, energy generation, re-suspended dust, commercial cooking, and domestic heating. While the air quality of coastal cities is being particularly hard hit from the toxic mix of pollutants emitted from the fuel consumed by cruise ships. In addition to these human-made sources of air pollution, extremely high concentrations from natural sources, in the form of smoke pollution from wildfires and swirling dust clouds from desert dust storms are impacting air quality in different tourist hotspots around the world.”


Alongside the survey’s findings that 38% of respondents spent an average of £37 seeking medical treatment or advice while on holiday – which equates to a shocking £998 million spend a year** – Avanti’s own data also revealed the economic impact of overlooking safety factors, with more than a third of all claims at the travel insurance provider being medical.***


Avanti’s Johnstone added: “Travellers need to be more mindful of things that can impact their health while abroad – and be prepared for them. Checking the weather can make you feel excited with a sense of anticipation for sunnier climes, but it’s important to make sure you’re also prepared for things that might disrupt your trip. By looking at things like air quality, holidaymakers can think about the impact that might have on their health and travel prepared. Travelling with your own ‘just in case kit’ could save you money by not buying expensive medication abroad – as well as wasting precious holiday time hunting down a pharmacy.”


Methodology: Unless otherwise stated, all figures are based on independent survey research carried out by Research Without Barriers (RWB) between 22nd and 27th June 2023, based on a sample of 2,003 UK adults.

**Statista’s latest Research Department figures show there were 71 million outbound overseas trips made by UK travellers in 2022. Avanti’s survey showed that 38% spent an average of £37 on medication on their trip abroad, which equates to an annual spend of £998m.

*** Figures based on Avanti customer data, collected 1st-30th June 2023.