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Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away

by The Wrinkle | August 13, 2010

While the economic bears and the earnings bulls fight it out on the markets, and the politicians race each other to the bottom, I thought it might be a nice change of pace to look at something a little more cheerful.

Everyone loves a holiday, and it was hard to go past this headline:

Pasta, the Sistine Chapel and Gondolas: Americans Choose Italy as Top Vacation Destination Outside U.S.

Who doesn’t want to go to Italy for a holiday, however the byline to the heading also caught the Wrinkle’s eye, “Australia, last year’s number one, drops to second on the list’.

 The source via Reuters was to a company called “Harris Interactive”. This company has been doing surveys and studies for decades, across a wide variety of subjects, and while it’s very America centric, it has an archive (called the vault) that you can search for survey’s (currently over 3,300) going back to 1970. Even at first glance there are a few interesting “gems” sitting in the vault.

Coming back to our travel survey, it turns out that for the last ten years Italy and Australia have been fighting for the top spot as the “go to” destination for Americans if money isn’t a consideration.

 

Rank

‘06

‘07

‘08

‘09

2010

Italy

2

2

1

2

1

Australia

1

1

2

1

2

Ireland

4

5

5

5

3

Great Britain

3

3

3

3

4

France

5

4

4

4

5

Greece

9

10

6

8

6

Germany

6

6

8

6

6

Japan

11

7

7

7

8

Spain

12

9

10

10

9

New Zealand

8

8

11

9

10

 

If you consider for a moment the “melting pot” that is America and the source of the majority of its immigration (and hence family links) the “top of mind” placing of Australia is a pretty good result. The other interesting note about Americans is that they aren’t great overseas travelers, you will find articles stating that only, anywhere from 7% to 25% of Americans hold passports, with the most likely number being around 20%.

Contra to popular belief, George Bush junior did travel overseas prior to taking office according to his staffers, namely Bermuda, Canada, China, Egypt, England, France, Gambia, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Scotland. The Wrinkle assumes some of these visits would have been during his days in the military.

Talking of George W, another interesting survey was, “What We Love and Hate about America”. I’m sure there are a few Aussies, not to mention half the world who would be happy to stand up (no, that wasn’t a plug for Abbot or the sex party) and contribute to this one.

However, what do the Americans themselves think?

First the “love” list that scored over 50%

Science and technology 75%
The Constitution 70%
The quality of life 66%
Colleges and universities 65%
TV, movies and entertainment 62%
Civil rights 58%
The standard of living 56%
Public safety 56%
Equal opportunity 52%

Now the “hate” list that scored less than 50%

The political system 23%
The economic system 28%
Public schools 32%
The health care system 33%
The legal system 37%
The system of government 43%
The environment 44%

The Wrinkle was a little surprised to see the first ranking given to science and technology, particularly in the Australian context where science and innovation appear to be a poor cousin to “bread and butter” commercial interests. Issues like the rule of law, fairness, quality of life and a good education are relatively universal. As is often the dissatisfaction with the way governments deliver their services.

Still if you look at post war economies, Science and Technology has been a major factor in spurring economic growth for many countries from the obvious like Japan, Korea, and China, to the niche like Nokia in Norway. Arguably you could say that the embrace of science and technology overlaps into an embrace of the importance of business.

But as in all things there is still a balance, another interesting “snippet” to come out of the vault in August this year is that “68% of all adult Americans believe the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” (66% last year).

Given the way countries tend to get very “introspective” during their own federal election campaigns it’s interesting to pause for a moment, and look a bit further afield to see what drives others.

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