British tourists go on spending sprees as well as drinking sprees when on holiday, a new survey suggests.
London remains the UK's most popular destination
Last year, UK residents spent a record £27bn when abroad, more than double the £11.7bn spent by visitors to the UK.
For every £1 now being spent in the UK by foreign visitors, £2.30 is being spent abroad by Britons.
This means that free-spending British tourists are making a record contribution to the UK's trade deficit.
The spending habits of tourists were revealed in a new survey from the Office for National Statistics
TRAVEL SPEND DEFICIT
Britons spent £27bn abroad in 2002
Visitors to the UK spent just above £11.7bn
Spain has overtaken France as the UK's favourite destination
British people are also travelling abroad in higher numbers than ever before - there were 59.4m overseas in 2002, with Spain emerging as the UK's new favourite destination.
British tourists made some 12.5 million visits to Spain in 2002, compared with 12.1 million to France.
The number of visitors coming to the UK is also on the increase again since the major fall in 2001 caused by the September 11 attacks and foot-and-mouth disease.
In 2002 overseas residents made 24.2 million visits to Britain.
Americans both made the highest number of visits - 3.6 million - and spent the most - £2.4bn.
But their numbers have still not recovered to pre-September 11 levels.
And while Belgian visitors spent the least of all tourists - an average of just £186 - this can be explained by the fact they also stayed for the shortest period of time
If this is taken into account then their average daily spend is the same as the European average - £60.
'A mature economy'
Sandy Dawe, from the tourist organisation Visit Britain, insisted that the disparity between what Brits spend abroad and that spent by visitors to the UK was perfectly normal.
"A balance of payments deficit on travel is characteristic of a wealthy, well developed, and mature economy," she said.
"We are not unusual in this - the Germans have a huge outflow market as well.
"We have the wealth and opportunity to travel,"
Read a selection of your comments below.
We already know Brits work the longest hours in Europe. So they are working hard playing hard. Living and working in this country is very expensive and the weather cannot be guaranteed. So going abroad is good value for money, which is what we like. The answer to the question is to make it cheaper in this country and both visitors and Brits will spend more.
Peter Owen, England
Having just returned from 4 days in southern Spain - I can see why people are spending money to go there - the cost of living is much less than in the UK. Four of us ate out every evening in the town (Ronda) and enjoyed great meals at very cheap prices. To get the same standard of meal in the UK would probably cost double or even treble what we paid. We had a Chinese meal which including drinks/desserts came to under £10 each - great value and superb quality.
Simple, provide first class facilities, acceptable prices, friendly service and a welcoming atmosphere (all preferably with a touch of sunshine) Not only would our visitors spend more, but we Brits might then be happier to holiday at home in the knowledge that we would not be ripped off for 2nd class facilities and service.
David Sutcliffe, UK
We travel abroad about 8 times a year (America and Europe). We have found that the shops in the places we are visiting are often much better value for money, so we end up doing a lot of shopping abroad. We feel we get ripped off in Britain far too often. In my opinion, if you find a country good value for money you are likely to spend more there than in ones where you do not find that.
Carolyn Moon, Britain
Poor standards of service, a condescending view of tourists, inherent child unfriendliness, poor value for money and bad transport. Are you really surprised that most Brits opt to spend money on holidays abroad?
Shahid Dadabhoy, UK
I think that our service is steadily improving, but it's still not up to international standards. If we want more visitors to visit the UK and spend money, we need better customer service, preferably with more people in tourist areas able to speak in other languages. We also need to reduce crime and litter/graffiti, which would put me off visiting the UK.