Worldwide survey takes a look at fashion, fears and preferred activities at the beach

PHUKET: Expedia.com, one of the world’s largest full-service online travel sites, recently released the results of the 2014 Expedia Flip Flop Report, an annual study of behavior and preferences among beachgoers in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. The study examines the most prevalent joys and anxieties among beachgoers worldwide, including comfort with public nudity, opinions of speedo-style, brief swimwear and fear of sharks.

The 2014 Expedia Flip Flop Report was commissioned by Expedia and conducted online by Northstar, a global research and consulting firm. The study was conducted among 11,165 adults 18 years of age and older, across 24 countries in five continents.

“The beach is the world’s most popular travel destination by a considerable margin,” said John Morrey, vice president and general manager of Expedia.com. “So every year we ask travellers all over the world to tell us their likes and dislikes as they relate to beach behavior. In response, we can offer travellers the recommendations that best suit their preferences. Expedia will help you get to the perfect beach, but when it comes to behavior on the sand, you’re on your own.”

For the third year running, Germans were the likeliest to sunbathe fully nude at the beach. However, this year – for the first time – Austrians tied their German peers in that regard. 28% of German and Austrian beachgoers report having spent a day at the beach in the buff. Worldwide, beach nudity is more common among men (18%) than women (6%). And toplessness is a largely European phenomenon, with Austrians (49%), Spaniards (42%) and Germans (39%) the likeliest to take part. 12% was the global average for beach nudity, while 20 % of female beachgoers worldwide have spent time topless at a beach.

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Asian beachgoers are typically more modest; only 2% of Japanese, 3% of South Koreans and 4% of Thai beachgoers have sunbathed nude. Though statistically unlikely to participate, the Japanese expressed a high level of comfort with beach nudity or female toplessness. 72% report being “very” or “somewhat” comfortable with the practice, trailing only the Spanish (74%). Residents of Hong Kong (29% approve), India (29%) and Malaysia (34%) were the least comfortable.

Have towel, will travel

The beach itself is the most popular travel destination for the world’s travellers. More than one half (56%) of the study’s respondents took a beach vacation in the past year. A full three quarters (75%) of

global travellers indicate that they are “very” or “somewhat” likely to take a beach vacation in the next 12 months. Of those who have taken a beach holiday, 62% said they did so outside of their home country, and 59% did so on a different continent.

And beachgoers need no excuse. 79% of those who anticipate taking one will do so “just because.” One subliminal driver may be beachgoers’ association with beach vacations and personal happiness. 73% of those who have taken, or plan to take, a beach vacation report that such holidays are associated with personal bliss either “a great deal” or “a fair amount.”

A quarter would sacrifice a week’s salary for more sand

In pursuit of such happiness, beach lovers will make sacrifices. The 2014 Expedia Flip Flop Report revealed that 29% would “work weekends for a month” in exchange for just one extra beach vacation per year; 25% would give up a week’s salary; and 11% would be willing to experience influenza for a full 48 hours.

Spending time in the sand with children made prospective beachgoers most excited (appearing in 51% of the top activities), followed by time with spouse/significant other (46%), sampling local cuisine (44%) and relaxing by the water (40%).

The preferred beach state is serenity

Relaxation is by far the preferred state of being at the beach. 88% of prospective beachgoers report that they will select a serene, calm destination, versus 12% who prefer a “party destination.” At the beach, a calm stroll along the water is the most popular activity. The list of preferred beach behaviors includes:

Walking (70% engage)
Swimming (65%)
Sunbathing (53%)
Reading (53%)
Napping (48%)
People-watching (47%)
Listening to music (45%)
Drinking alcohol (39%)
Getting a massage/spa treatment (30%)
Partying (25%)

At the beach, sleep > food > intimacy

In fact, sleeping was cited as the top beach indulgence. 46% of global beachgoers cite “sleeping in/napping” as a typical beach indulgence, followed by spending more than normal on food (42%), eating more food than usual (41%), intimacy with a partner (38%) and shopping for things other than clothes (34%).

At 69%, Austrians were the world’s likeliest to prioritize a nap. The Irish (53%) were the world’s likeliest to over-indulge with food. Brazilians (56%) edged Italians (54%) as the likeliest to be intimate.

Speedos are approved, theft isn’t

74% of worldwide respondents consider speedo-style briefs to be acceptable beach attire. A full 95% of Brazilians approve, followed by Austrians (94%), Germans (91%) and Spaniards (91%). Acceptance was lowest among Norwegians, with only 40% approving. 57% of Americans approve of the attire, as do 60% of the Japanese.

More than half of the world’s beachgoers would “never” post a photo of themselves in swimwear of any type and 31% of people on the beach avoid posting any vacation photos on their social channels “so I don’t make my friends jealous.” On the flip side, 18% do post vacation photos to inspire envy.

While speedos do not make beachgoers anxious, theft does. 68% of respondents say that having their wallet or possessions stolen on the beach makes them “very” or “somewhat” anxious.

All jaws, all the time

Shark attacks make 44% of respondents worldwide anxious, with beachgoers from Brazil (84%), Hong Kong (70%) and Malaysia (70%) expressing the most fear. A full 50% of beachgoers report that they are afraid to swim at the beach due to sharks, though 35% of that group will swim regardless.

Such fears remain a prevailing concern for beachgoers despite the relative rarity of a shark encounter: The University of Florida’s “International Shark Attack File Report” reveals that a mere 72 “unprovoked” shark bite incidents took place in 2013, worldwide.

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