The £520 Million ATOL Refund Bill. Can the UK CAA Cover It?

In the UK, travel agents must pay £2.50 into the ATOL scheme for each person they book on a package holiday.

If a travel business with an ATOL ceases trading, the ATOL scheme protects consumers who had booked holidays with the firm. It will support consumers currently abroad and provide financial reimbursement for the cost of replacing parts of an ATOL protected package.

ATOL Website

If you’re in the UK, you will be well aware of the ATOL scheme (operated by the UK CAA) by now after the collapse of Thomas Cook.

The mammoth repatriation effort, dubbed Operation Matterhorn (aka the largest in peacetime history), is to bring an estimated 150,000 people back to the UK.

Government figures show that the cost of reimbursing holidaymakers who lost future bookings stands at £420 million.

This is in addition to an expected £100 million bill to return Thomas Cook passengers to Britain and tens of millions owed to hotels overseas.

Thomas Cook Group Website

Though after years as one of the leading travel agents in Europe, as the Thomas Cook Group sites still boasts (parent company of Thomas Cook UK), surely the passenger ATOL contributions must cover the mounting bills?

Methodology

Using direct and indirect data sources, I was able to obtain numbers to make some “informed estimations”.

I am using figures from Thomas Cook Airlines, as I was unable to find exact package holiday passenger numbers. This is an important distinction, as Thomas Cook Airlines also carry passengers not covered under ATOL protection (e.g. those who booked flights only). As a result, many of the figures quoted will be overestimates.

Similarly, I also use figures from the Office of National Statistics that report total UK holidays by year to work out potential ATOL contributions.

ATOL contributions in this post are assumed to be fixed at £2.50 per passenger.

Results

Thomas Cook ATOL Contributions by Year

Thomas Cook Airlines Passenger Volume and Estimated ATOL contributions (2009 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year Pax (TC airlines) ATOL contribution GBP
2009 8,202,534 20,506,335
2010 8,120,815 20,302,038
2011 7,969,569 19,923,923
2012 6,783,661 16,959,153
2013 6,043,480 15,108,700
2014 6,043,480 15,108,700
2015 6,395,623 15,989,058
2016 6,623,546 16,558,865
2017 7,319,546 18,298,865
2018 8,090,208 20,225,520

Full table.

Since 2013 Thomas Cook Airlines has been carrying an increasing number of passengers. Over 2 million more in 2018 than in 2013 (25% increase).

Assuming all these passengers were covered under ATOL protection (see methodology), Thomas Cook paid over £20.2 million to the scheme in 2018. Using the same logic, over the period between 2009 and 2018 Thomas Cook airlines paid £179 million into the scheme.

Let’s assume now that only 50% of Thomas Cook airline passengers paid in to the scheme. In 2018 they would have contributed just over £10 million, and since 2009, about £90 million.

This number is still way short of the estimated £520 million final bill, as quoted above.

Potential Total Travel Agents ATOL Contributions by Year

UK Holiday Passengers and Potential ATOL contributions GBP (1998 - 2018)

Download chart.

Year UK Holiday Passengers ATOL Potential ATOL contributions GBP @100% paid UK Holiday Passengers ATOL GBP @50% paid
1998 32,306,000 80,765,000 40,382,500
1999 35,023,000 87,557,500 43,778,750
2000 36,685,000 91,712,500 45,856,250
2001 38,670,000 96,675,000 48,337,500
2002 39,902,000 99,755,000 49,877,500
2003 41,197,000 102,992,500 51,496,250
2004 42,912,000 107,280,000 53,640,000
2005 44,175,000 110,437,500 55,218,750
2006 45,287,000 113,217,500 56,608,750
2007 45,437,000 113,592,500 56,796,250
2008 45,531,000 113,827,500 56,913,750
2009 38,492,000 96,230,000 48,115,000
2010 36,422,000 91,055,000 45,527,500
2011 36,819,000 92,047,500 46,023,750
2012 36,173,000 90,432,500 45,216,250
2013 37,149,000 92,872,500 46,436,250
2014 38,519,000 96,297,500 48,148,750
2015 42,150,000 105,375,000 52,687,500
2016 45,020,000 112,550,000 56,275,000
2017 46,636,000 116,590,000 58,295,000
2018 47,042,000 117,605,000 58,802,500

Full table.

Assuming all UK holiday makers contributed towards ATOL, the scheme would have raised £117.6 million in 2018 (47 million pax). If so, since 1998 the scheme has raised £2.13 billion (from 851.5 million passengers). ATOL stated in 1973.

Let’s assume only 50% of holiday makers were required to pay into the scheme, it would still have generated a pot of over £1 billion (ignoring other times passengers have been compensated by ATOL, see below).

We have enough to cover the £520 million now…

Repaying Thomas Cook Passengers

Thomas Cook Impact on ATOL Contributions Pot 1998-2018

Download chart.

Assuming the 50% of holiday makers since 1998 were required to pay into the scheme (£1 billion), the £520 million Thomas Cook bill would require 48.9% of the schemes contributions to refund passengers.

Thomas Cook UK are the largest agency or airline to go into liquidation, by quite some margin.

Though a number of other airlines — FlyBMI, Cobalt, Monarch, etc — are likely to have impacted passengers under ATOL protection. ATOL refunds for the collapse of Monarch added up to £21 million.

Of course, many smaller agencies will have ceased trading, requiring ATOL refunds for passengers too.

The question is, has ATOL paid out more than £520 million since 1998. I’m not so sure…

Improvements

As indicated in the methodology section (and lack of a definitive answer to the question), there are lots of estimations in this post.

To improve the accuracy of the figures estimated, I would need ATOL contribution figures by agency and all payouts over the period the organisation has been operating.

tl;dr

It is very likely that the final Thomas Cook will significantly impact the balance sheet of the ATOL protection scheme. It could easily exceed over 50% of all ATOL contributions for the last 20 years.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Fountain that Earns Over 28 Times the US Minimum Wage

Toss a coin into a fountain and make a wish. There’s something particularly romantic about doing so at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The legend goes; throwing one coin means a return to Rome, a second coin leads to a new romance, and a third coin leads to marriage.

So how many people are getting married?

The totals

A lot of visitors to Rome are clearly buying into the story, with an Italian charity, Caritas, a Catholic non-profit that receives all coins, confirming that nearly $1.5 million dollars in change was thrown into the fountain during 2016.

Trevi Fountain earnings USD EUR (0.89 USD)
Amount per year $1,500,000.00 €1,335,000.00
Amount per month $125,000.00 €111,250.00
Amount per day $4,109.59 €3,657.53
Amount per hour $68.49 €60.96
Amount per min $1.14 €1.02

Full table

The Trevi Fountain earns $68.49 per hour (over a 24 hour period). Assuming a standard 8 hour work day (vs. 24 hours) that’s $204.48 per hour, 28 times higher than the minimum wage in the US of $7.25 per hour. Per day the fountain receives just over $4,109 in coins.

Now let’s assume all the coins thrown into the fountain are Euros, at an exchange rate of 0.89 EUR to 1 USD (correct May 15th 2019) thats €60.96 per hour, or €3,657.53 per day.

The coins

The euro coin series comprises eight different denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent, €1 and €2.

That means, the minimum number of coins thrown into the fountain per day is 1832 (x1828 2 Euro coins, x1 1 Euro coin, x1 50 cent coin, x1 2 cent coin, and x1 1 cent coin).

Though I very much doubt the majority of people are throwing in 2 Euro coins. I would not be surprised if the average denomination was less than 10 cents. Assuming all the coins were 10 cents, that’s x36,575 10 cent coins (plus x1 2 cent coin, and x1 1 cent coin).

The weight

Continuing this trail of thought, with each 10 cent coin weighing in at 4.1 grams, the daily weight of coins is just under 150kg. Per year that’s 54735kg or nearly 55 tonnes — about half the weight of a Blue Whale.

tl;dr

People throw $1,500,000 worth of coins into the Trevi Fountain every year. 

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The World’s Most Visited Tourist Attractions

I’ve lived in London, Hong Kong and San Francisco. At certain times during the year I found myself with a heightened sense of awareness as tourists descended upon the cities, stopping abruptly to take a photo or to pull out their phone to get their bearings.

I’m almost positive these cities are amongst the most popular with tourists, but I can’t be sure. Cue this post.

Methodology

The following analysis uses visitor data sourced from www.farandwide.com.

Results

Top 50 attractions by visitor numbers

Annual visitor rank Attraction City Country Annual visitors (millions)
50 Nagashima Spa Land Kuwana Japan 5.8
48 Universal Studios Hollywood Los Angeles USA 5.9
48 Palace of Versailles Paris France 5.9
47 Bourbon Street New Orleans USA 6
45 Museum of Modern Art New York USA 6.1
45 Universal Studios Orlando Florida USA 6.1
43 Lincoln Memorial Washington USA 6.2
43 Lake Mead Nevada USA 6.2
41 British Museum London England 6.7
41 Disney Hong Kong Hong Kong Hong Kong 6.7
39 Lotte World Seoul South Korea 6.8
39 Everland Resort South Korea South Korea 6.8
36 National Air and Space Museum Washington USA 7
36 Eiffel Tower Paris France 7
36 Victoria Peak Hong Kong Hong Kong 7
35 Ocean Park Hong Kong Hong Kong Hong Kong 7.4
34 Disney California Adventure Park Anaheim USA 7.7
33 Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando USA 7.9
32 Smithsonian National Museum of History Washington USA 8
31 Sydney Opera House Sydney Australia 8.2
30 Pier 39 San Francisco USA 8.5
28 South Street Seaport New York USA 9
28 Great Wall of China Beijing China 9
26 Navy Pier Chicago USA 9.2
26 Musée du Louvre Paris France 9.2
25 Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee USA 9.6
24 Universal Studios Japan Osaka Japan 9.7
22 Disney Hollywood Studios Bay Lake USA 9.9
22 Disney’s Animal Kingdom Orlando USA 9.9
20 Pike Place Market Seattle USA 10
20 Plaza de la Constitución Mexico City Mexico 10
19 Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade Hong Kong Hong Kong 10.1
18 Sacre Coeur Paris France 10.5
17 Epcot Park Orlando USA 11
16 Disneyland Paris Paris France 11.2
15 Tokyo Disney Sea Tokyo Japan 12.6
14 Golden Gate Park San Francisco USA 13
13 Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris France 13.6
12 Tokyo Disney Resort Tokyo Japan 14.8
11 Grand Bazaar Istanbul Turkey 15
10 Forbidden City Beijing China 15.3
9 Disneyland Park Anaheim USA 15.9
8 Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Orlando USA 17.5
7 Faneuil Hall Boston USA 18
6 Grand Central Station New York USA 21.6
5 Niagara Falls USA and Canada USA, Canada 22.5
4 Union Station Washington USA 32.8
3 Central Park New York USA 37.5
2 Times Square New York USA 39.2
1 The Strip Las Vegas USA 39.6

View full list.

Countries with the most attractions in the top 50

Total Visitors Count of Attraction in Top 50

Download chart.

27 of the top 50 attractions are in the US, cumulatively attracting 379 million visitors each year — this is more visitors than all other countries attractions in the top 50 put together!

tl;dr

9 of the top 10 attractions around the world are in the United States, with The Strip in Las Vegas topping the list. In total 27 of the top 50 attractions are in the US, cumulatively attracting 379 million visitors each year.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

The Worlds Fastest Growing Cities

Hunched around the contours of the tube carriage at 8:45AM on a cold winter morning I begin to question my decision to travel into Central London. The underground platforms at Waterloo Station are ten people deep, most suffering from colds and coughs, only made worse by the drastic increase in temperature that results when thousands of people are crammed into a small space.

It’s not all bad. London is one of the greatest cities I know. Though at times it’s sheer size can be overwhelming. On these occasions I long for the peace and quite of the countryside. That said, London is relatively small and its population sparse, though these facts offer little consolation when crammed inside of a tube carriage.

The worlds cities are set to grow rapidly over the next decade. In China new cities appear overnight with young people flocking to them for work and leisure at an astounding rate.

In 2016, an estimated 54.5 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban settlements.By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 per cent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants.

In this post I take a look at the cities that have grown the fastest since the Millennium, and those that are set to see the fastest growth rate over the next 15 years.

Methodology

The Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations Secretariat has the task of estimating and projecting levels and trends of populations for all the countries of the world.

In 2016 they published a report titled, The Worlds Cities in 2016, in which they looked at the historic (2000), current (2016), and future (2030) populations of 476 cities. The data from this was used for all analysis in this post.

Results

Cities in 2016

Count of 2016 City Populations

Download chart.

Rank 2016 population Country or area City City Statistical concept 2016 City population (000’s)
1 Japan Tokyo Metropolitan area 38140
2 India Delhi Urban Agglomeration 26454
3 China Shanghai City Proper 24484
4 India Mumbai (Bombay) Urban Agglomeration 21357
5 Brazil São Paulo Metropolitan area 21297

Full ranking.

In 2016, an estimated 54.5% of the world’s population lived in urban settlements. During 2016 there were 31 cities with more than 10 million people, 8 cities with more than 20 million people, and 1 city, Tokyo, with more than 30 (almost 40) million people, 38.1 million people.

Fastest growing cities since 2000

Count of Cities by 2000-2016 Population Growth

Download chart.

2000-2016 growth rank Country or area City City Statistical concept 2000 City population (000’s) 2016 City population (000’s) 2000-2016 % change
1 Thailand Samut Prakan City Proper 389 1980 509.00
2 Indonesia Batam City Proper 415 1498 360.96
3 China Xiamen Urban Agglomeration 1416 4738 334.60
4 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou City Proper 921 2923 317.37
5 Nigeria Abuja Urban Agglomeration 833 2586 310.44

Full ranking.

The average growth rate for the 496 cities considered was about 150%. Samut Prakan, Thailand grew by over 500% — the fastest growth rate of any city. In 2016 there were just 389,000 residents, now there are almost 2 million!

Over the period, just 21 cities saw populations get smaller. Khulnam, Bangladesh shrunk by about 19%, from 1.25 million people in 2000 to slightly over 1 million in 2016.

Average growth 2000-2016 rank Classification 1 Average growth 2000-2016
1 Africa 175.22%
2 South-Central Asia 166.69%
3 Asia 162.76%
4 Latin America and the Caribbean 131.65%
5 Oceania 123.42%
6 Europe 109.31%

Download table.

Africa’s cities grew by an average of 175% over the 16 years between 2000 – 2016, Europe’s grew by just 109%.

Fastest growing cities 2030

Count of Cities by 2016-2030 Population Growth

Download chart.

2016-2030 growth rank Country or area City City Statistical concept 2016 City population (000’s) 2030 City population (000’s) 2016-2030 % change
1 Niger Niamey City Proper 1125 2363 210.04%
2 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou City Proper 2923 5854 200.27%
3 United Republic of Tanzania Dar es Salaam Urban Agglomeration 5409 10760 198.93%
4 Mali Bamako City Proper 2651 5231 197.32%
5 Uganda Kampala Urban Agglomeration 2012 3939 195.78%

Full ranking.

By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 per cent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants. Two, Niamey, Niger and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso will both double in size.

The top 20 fastest growing cities are all in Africa. Only 12 cities are expected to shrink between 2016-2030.

Average growth 2000-2016 rank Classification 1 Average growth 2000-2016
1 Africa 158.61%
2 South-Central Asia 136.64%
3 Asia 123.35%
4 Latin America and the Caribbean 117.70%
5 Oceania 119.16%
6 Europe 105.97%

Download table.

The average growth rate will drop in all regions of the world between 2016-2030 when compared to the period 2000-2016 — although all regions will see growth. The average growth rate of all considered cities by 2030 is projected to be 128%.

Cities in 2030

Download chart.

2030 City population rank Country or area City City Statistical concept 2030 City population (000’s)
1 Japan Tokyo Metropolitan area 37190
2 India Delhi Urban Agglomeration 36060
3 China Shanghai City Proper 30751
4 India Mumbai (Bombay) Urban Agglomeration 27797
5 China Beijing Urban Agglomeration 27706

Full ranking.

The largest cities in 2030 are likely to remain largely unchanged in order when compared to 2016. Beijing, China enters the top 5 replacing Sao Paulo, Brazil which grow in population by 130% and 110% respectively.

tl;dr

The worlds cities are expected to grow by an average of 128% between 2016-2030 — that’s 25% slower than between 2000-2016. African countries will grow the fastest. Niamey, Niger will see the largest population growth of around 210% with Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso also doubling in size (+201%).

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

The Best Cities for Travelling via Public Transportation

Despite the increase of Uber and similar on-demand ride services in most major cities, public transportation still serves millions of locals and tourists every year.

Living in London it is easy to take public transportation for granted. With tube lines snaking across the city, bus stops on almost every road, and a cycle hire scheme for those rare sunny days it is easy to venture across the UK’s capital without wondering how you’ll get to a destination.

Though in other larger cities, even though public transportation systems do exist, they are often sparse and serve a seemingly small population. For me this is especially true of cities in America. In San Francisco I find it generally easier and sometimes cheaper to take an Uber over the BART.

Having recently returned from the America, this thought sparked an idea for a post. Which cities have the best public transportation networks?

Methodology

Wikipedia users have curated a list of metro systems around the world. The data includes; date the system was first opened, the size of the network, the number of stations and yearly ridership figures. In total 177 metro systems are listed.

I also collected population data for a cities metro area from Wikipedia to compare against yearly ridership figures.

Results

The oldest networks

Age rank City Country Name Year opened
1 London United Kingdom London Underground 1890
2 Budapest Hungary Budapest Metro 1896
2 Glasgow United Kingdom Glasgow Subway 1896
4 Chicago United States Chicago “L” 1897
5 Paris France Paris Métro 1900

Full ranking.

The UK has the oldest network dating back to 1890 (128 years old). This is significantly below the average age of 1984 (38 years old) for all 177 networks considered. The average age figure is significantly boosted by new metro systems appearing across growing Chinese and Indian cities. In a previous post I covered how the rapid growth of Chinese high-speed rail links.

The age of each network got me thinking; will older networks be larger than their smaller counterparts? It seems logical given the additional time they have had to expand.

Age versus size

System Length Versus Age

Download chart.

Perhaps surprisingly the average metro system is just 70 kilometers. Again, this figure is slightly skewed due to the new metros emerging in cities.

System Length Rank City Country Name System Length kilometers
1 Shanghai China Shanghai Metro 637
2 Beijing China Beijing Subway 599.4
3 London United Kingdom London Underground 402
4 Guangzhou China Guangzhou Metro 390.7
5 New York City United States New York City Subway 380.2

Full ranking.

China is home to three of the five largest metro networks with Shanghai’s system the largest at a total length of 637 kilometers. First opened in 1993 it spans 200 more kilometers than the London Underground opened over 100 years earlier.

However, length isn’t everything. As a passenger it is important that many destinations are served allowing maximum freedom to roam a city.

Length versus number of stations

System Length Versus Number of Stations

Download chart.

There is a linear correlation between number of stations and system length. As the size of a network grows as does the number of stations. This suggests that most metros follow a similar pattern in spacing out their stations. This is to be expected given the way cities grow and the fact that a small number of companies design and build these networks.

Rank num stations City Country Name Stations
1 New York City United States New York City Subway 424
2 Shanghai China Shanghai Metro 324
3 Seoul South Korea Seoul Subway (lines 1-9) 307
4 Beijing China Beijing Subway 306
5 Paris France Paris Métro 302

Full ranking.

Despite being only the fifth largest network by length, New York boasts the highest number of stations serving passengers — 100 more than Shanghai even though it is over 250 kilometers shorter in length.

This highlights another important question; how well are travelling passengers served by stations?

Stations versus passengers

Stations Versus Passengers

Download chart.

A linear correlation between stations and passengers is seen for the 161 metros there is ridership data for. 16 systems carry more than 1 billion passengers each year.

Ridership rank City Country Name Ridership Ave pax per station
1 Beijing China Beijing Subway 3,660,000,000 11,960,784
2 Shanghai China Shanghai Metro 3,401,000,000 10,496,914
3 Seoul South Korea Seoul Subway (lines 1-9) 2,856,500,000 6,056,790
4 Guangzhou China Guangzhou Metro 2,800,000,000 14,070,352
5 Tokyo Japan Tokyo Metro 2,642,100,000 9,184,906

Full ranking.

Each of the top five metro systems each serve over 2.5 billion journeys a year. Beijing’s metro serves a staggering 3.66 billion journeys each year!

Despite having the most stations, 424, New York Cities Subway network carries just 1.75 billion passengers each year. Compare that to Beijing, 306 stations and over 3.6 billion passengers a year — that’s an average of 11 million people travelling through each station on the network each year.

In recent years there has been some talk of so called “white elephant” infrastructure projects being undertaken in China. Perhaps there is some truth in this for metro networks?

Passengers versus population

Passengers vs Metro Population

Download chart.

There is a slight correlation comparing passengers to population. Indeed there are many outliers too. Take the Dongguan Rail Transit in China. It serves 48% of the 44.5 million population each year.

Rank pax/pop City Country Name Metro Population Ridership (year) % Pop vs ridership
1 Milan Italy Milan Metro 1,365,156 468,300,000 34303.77%
2 Taipei Taiwan Taipei Metro 2,704,974 746,000,000 27578.82%
3 Munich Germany Munich U-Bahn 1,464,301 398,000,000 27180.20%
4 Hong Kong China MTR 7,409,800 1,767,100,000 23848.15%
5 New York City United States New York City Subway 8,175,133 1,756,800,000 21489.56%

Full ranking.

Milan’s metro system serves 34,304% more passengers each year than the metro areas total population! 22 systems see yearly ridership greater than 10,000% higher than the cities population too.

At the other end of the spectrum the Hefei Metro system in China carries around 18% of the cities population each year over its 52.4 kilometre network.

tl;dr

Despite being the 5th largest network by size, the New York City Subway comprising of 424 stations offers the most flexibility for passengers. Compared to other similarly large networks the New York Subway also has comparatively lower passenger numbers meaning less crowding onboard.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

Where Should I Visit When I’m In [Country]?

Big cities have offer a seemingly endless lists of things to do and places to spend  money. London has enough attractions to keep you busy for 16 years.

When you’re visiting a new city for a few days compromises must be made. Nowadays many of us turn to TripAdvisor to help us narrow down the places to visit based on recommendations from fellow travellers.

After realising the most popular attraction to visit in the UK (based on TripAdvisor ratings) is a Harry Potter studio tour, yes you read that correctly, I began to wonder what most attracts visitors to other countries.

Methodology

The United Nations recognised 249 countries. Using this list I turned to Tripadvisor to find the most popular attraction (“things to do”) in each of the countries. In total there was attraction data for 242 countries.

Results

Most popular attractions by type (2018)

Most-Popular-Attraction-in-Country-by-Type-2018

Interactive chart.

Natural attractions are by far the most popular, from waterfalls to national parks.

Most popular attractions type by region (2018)

Count-of-most-popular-country-attraction-by-region-2018

Interactive chart.

Looking deeper, natural attractions are the most popular in African, American and Oceanic countries. Asia’s and Europe’s rich historical past leaves historic attractions the most popular in these regions, especially Europe.

Most popular attractions by country (2018)

Popular-attraction-type-by-country-type11

Interactive chart.

The natural category includes places like Canada’s Niagara Falls and Norway’s Geiranger Fjord. Meanwhile, other well known historic attractions like China’s Great Wall make the list.

Although not all of the most popular attractions in each country are what you might expect. As noted, the United Kingdom’s most popular attraction is a Harry Potter Studio tour, not one of the historic buildings I was expecting.

My favourite attraction, and now on my bucket list, is the “Door to Hell” Gas Deposit, the most popular attraction in Turkmenistan.

Improvements

Clearly TripAdvisor ratings are one way to measure popularity. A more comprehensive analysis might consider other metrics including footfall, for example.

tl;dr

Natural attractions are the most popular for visiting tourists.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

The World Cup 2018 Numbers: Download the Dataset

The group stages are over, onto the finals! If you’re anything like me, the World Cup has occupied a significant proportion of your free time over the last two weeks.

TV coverage has seen pundits highlight interesting (and questionable) match statistics during games; kilometers covered by players in a game (I’d love to get my hands on that data) to the all-time top scorers.

This, of course, inspired me to collate a data set of my own for analysis to look at some of the numbers behind the World Cup (we already know Russian cities have the most museums for fans to visit between games)…

Analysis

Teams

Count-of-teams-in-2018-World-Cup-from-each-continent

Download chart.

There are 32 teams from 6 continents (only Antarctica is not represented — they don’t have a team).

Players

Ratio-of-player-_-population-of-teams-in-2018-World-Cup

Download chart.

Excluding management and those in team support roles, for every one player in the Iceland squad there are 13,431 people in the Icelandic population. One pundit noted that most people have a second-degree connection that links them to an Icelandic player! Brazil has the biggest pool of talent to choose from with one player per 8.75 million people.

Stadiums

Stadium-Capacity-at-2018-World-Cup

Download chart.

The Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where the final will be held, is by far the largest stadium with a capacity of 81,000. The average capacity of all stadiums is 48,427. Many of the stadiums are home to second division Russian teams including the Fisht Stadium, Sochi (47,700 capacity), Volgograd Arena, Volgograd (45,568), Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium (45,331), and the Mordovia Arena, Saransk (44,442) — larger than many English Premier League grounds.

World-Cup-2018-Stadium-Opening-Dates

Download chart.

The median age of all the World Cup stadiums is about one year (median first opened date is 2017.5). Only two were opened prior to 2013; the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow (opened 1956, redeveloped for 2018 World Cup) and Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg (1953).

Stadium-cost-per-game-at-each-World-Cup-2018-stadium

Download chart.

Costing a rumoured $1.5 billion USD to build, the St Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg hosting 7 games works out to cost $214.3 million per game. The average cost per game across all 12 stadiums and 64 games is $79.9 million.

The total spent on stadiums for the 2018 World Cup alone (remember all but one were opened or refurbished in the last 5 years) is a staggering $5.3 billion dollars!

Stadium-cost-per-seat-at-each-World-Cup-2018-stadium

Download chart.

Looking at costs in more details, based on the number of games a stadium will host and each stadiums capacity, each seat at the St Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg works out to cost $3,145.06 (hosting 7 games at a maximum capacity of 68,134). The Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow is the most cost effective costing $705.42 per seat (7 games / capacity 81,006) — a figure still well below average ticket costs as we’ll see below…

Ticket Prices

Cost-to-see-team-to-final-of-World-Cup-2018-1

Download chart.

Tickets to the World Cup 2018 range from $22.40 to $1094.28. Russian residents receive a healthy discounts on tickets, meaning they could follow a team to the final (7 games) for just $370.92 (it would cost them slightly more to watch Russia because the opening game has a premium ticket cost). Those wanting the best category of ticket would pay $3,072.96 to watch their team make it all the way to the final (assuming they do!).

Weather

Weather-averages-at-World-Cup-2018-stadiums-1

Download chart.

Whilst I’m lying on my sofa, players are running over 8 kilometers per game in searing heat. The average daily highs across all stadiums is 24°C with lows of 15°C. Surprisingly, there is an 50% chance of rain daily, on average. In Ekaterinburg, the likelihood is as high as 66%.

Improvements

With more time, I’d like to explore the distances teams have to travel between stadiums and their training sites.

egypt-journey-1

via: Chapman Freeborn 

Chapman Freeborn, an aircraft charter company, have conducted such an analysis for the group games. They found Egypt covered 7,316 miles travelling to their group games. Compare that to Colombia who travelled just 1,158 miles.

As noted at the start of this post, I would also like to obtain in-game statistics from FIFA to perform a more micro analysis of games.

tl;dr

The World Cup is expensive; the total cost of stadiums hosting the 2018 World Cup is a staggering $5.3 billion dollars!

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

Become a French Resident for Only 10 Million Euros

Visa requirements to stay in a country for longer than one month can be very restrictive. If you want to work in another country things only become more complicated.

Many countries implement point based immigration systems, others also offer random lotteries for citizenship. As the old adage states; “money talks”. Indeed, when it comes to citizenship this holds true. In a previous post I took a look at the staggering amount some countries earn through tourism visas alone.

An increasing number of countries offer citizenship for investors with big pockets looking for a new home. Such schemes have come under much controversy with many people using their new found citizenships to avoid taxes in their former home countries.

In this post I take a look at the market for citizenships, and see if I too could afford to purchase a citizenship in any of these countries (let me dream!).

Methodology

There are a number of significant differences between the terms ‘residency’ and ‘citizenship’. A citizen of a country, nation or state has rights that are not conferred on a resident. Citizens can confidently expect that they will hold that status, and those rights, for life. In addition, citizenship status can be inherited by children and grandchildren merely by proving, if they were born outside of that country, that they are close filial relatives of the citizen.

Residents have no such clear-cut security. Residency status can also, depending on the laws of that country, be separated into temporary and permanent residency. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom (UK) do not even acknowledge the term ‘residency’ but define it as ‘indefinite leave to remain’.

The IMF has produced a list of 23 countries that offer residency and citizenship programs. Using this list I examined each offering and its restrictions, for example, the time required in country to remain a resident in the program. In each country, the requirements to enter a program wildly differ. In some countries a real-estate investment is allowed, in others an investment in a business is required. To simplify things the list simply considers the cheapest investment vehicle to enter each program.

To try and understand the value of each of the programs to potential investors I compared the cost required to invest against each countries GDP in 2017, also produced by the IMF.

Results

Cost of citizenship / residency

Cost-of-citizenship-by-country

Interactive chart.

Rank cost Country Cost USD Shengen Type
23 Latvia $43,178 Y Residency
22 Dominica $100,000 N Citizenship
19 Antigua and Barbuda $250,000 N Citizenship
3 Cyprus $3,084,150 Y Citizenship
2 Australia $3,941,105 N Residency
1 France $12,336,600 Y Residency

Full list.

At $43,178 and offering entry into the Shengen travel zone, the Latvian residency program is a very attractive opportunity for non-EU citizens. This residency program looks incredibly cheap when compared to the French program costing $12,336,600!

Eligibility for citizenship

In many cases those who purchase a residency or even citizenship must wait some time before enjoying full rights.

Years-in-country-before-eligible-for-citizenship1

Interactive chart.

Rank qual. period Country Shengen Type Cost USD Residency Requirements Citizenship qualifying period
18 Cyprus Y Citizenship $3,084,150 0 0
18 Dominica N Citizenship $100,000 0 0
18 Grenada N Citizenship $250,000 0 0
18 St. Kitts and Nevis N Citizenship $250,000 0 0
18 Antigua and Barbuda N Citizenship $250,000 5 days / 5 years 0
2 Latvia Y Residency $43,178 0 10
2 Spain Y Residency $616,830 0 10
1 Switzerland N Residency $267,012 0 12

Full table.

In 5 countries you can obtain citizenship immediately without restriction. Only one of these countries, Antigua and Barbuda, has a requirement for citizens to remain in the country — although this is just 5 days over 5 years! Four of these five countries are in the Caribbean. Though for $3,084,150, Cypriot citizenship offers immediate access with no restriction to the EU Schengen travel zone.

Investment as a percentage of GDP

Citizenship-cost-as-a-percentage-of-GDP-2017

Interactive chart.

Cost GDP rank Country Cost USD GDP per capita USD Cost / GDP Shengen Type
23 Latvia $43,178.10 $15,402 280% Y Residency
22 Switzerland $267,012.50 $80,837 330% N Residency
21 Canada – Prince Edward Island $276,747.10 $44,773 618% N Residency
3 Bulgaria $616,830.00 $7,924 7784% N Residency
2 Cyprus $3,084,150.00 $24,740 12466% Y Citizenship
1 France $12,336,600.00 $39,673 31096% Y Residency

Full list.

In Latvia, citizens generate $15,402.00 each to the economy. A residency visa will cost you 280% more than this. If you think this is unreasonable, consider French residency where the cost is 31,096% higher than GDP per person.

Improvements

As noted, segmenting each program further by investment type would provide additional insight.

For comparison, other income metrics beyond GDP would be make for a interesting analysis. Each countries tax rates would be a good example.

tl;dr

Latvian residency can be purchased for just $43,178 and provides non-EU citizens with unrestricted access to the Schengen travel zone. Dominica offers the cheapest citizenship program, costing $100,000 to become a fully fledged citizen.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

Mexicans on Minimum Wage Have to Work for 5 Weeks to Afford a Passport

Last year I needed to renew my passport. As a regular traveller I opted for the “jumbo” 48 page option with the aim of filling them all with a stamp in the 10 year period, a task that will likely be made easier when the UK leaves Europe. Sigh.

In a previous post we covered the cost of obtaining visas to enter countries, assuming your passport didn’t entitle you to visa-free entry. While some travel visa fees are eye-watering, the high cost of renewing my passport (£85.59 for the jumbo version) left me wondering how many people simply can not afford this luxury around the world, especially when factoring in the cost for a family.

While travel costs continues to decrease, it appears the cost of documents allowing you to do so is going the other way. In this post I examine the affordability of passports around the world.

Methodology

In 2010 the UK government published a comparison of costs for citizens to apply for passports in their native country.

Using this list of 52 countries I searched each governments website for the costs associated with renewing an adult passport. The definition of “adult” varies by country. In each case I selected the largest age group covering the population between 18-65. Given many countries offered different rates for passports, I collected prices for passports with the longest validity. When more than one variation was available, for example number of pages, I selected the cheapest option for comparison.

I used a list of minimum wage data by country published on Wikipedia to compare passport costs to income. 11 countries did not have a clear minimum wages and these countries were therefore omitted from the analysis.

Results

Passport costs (2018)

Passport-cost-by-country-20181

Interactive chart.

Rank USD Issuing Country Cost USD Adult: Validity of Standard Pasport (years)
41 Indonesia $11.43 10
40 India $23.24 10
39 Bulgaria $25.37 5
3 Japan $150.06 10
2 Turkey $177.47 10
1 Australia $223.43 10

Full list.

Indonesian citizens can buy a passport for just $11.43 USD. This might leave many Australian citizens wondering why they have to pay $223.43 USD. The mean average cost for a passport of the 41 countries considered is $72.48 USD.

Passport costs by year (2018)

The passports above have varying lengths of validity, from five to ten years. I analysed cost per year of each passport to get a better understanding of value.

Passport-yearly-cost-by-country-2018

Interactive chart.

Rank cost p/yr usd Issuing Country Cost /yr USD Adult: Validity of Standard Pasport (years)
41 Indonesia $1.14 10
40 India $2.32 10
39 China $2.84 10
3 Greece $20.94 5
2 France $21.34 5
1 Australia $22.34 10

Full list.

When examining passport costs by year the costs do not seem as prohibitive. Even at the most expensive end of the spectrum the Australian passport works out to cost $22.34 per year over 10 years. Perhaps passport authorities should consider charging yearly for passports.

Passport costs vs income (2018)

While cost of a passport is an important metric. It does not consider the wealth of the country and how much of a persons income is required to purchase a passport for travel. Using minimum wage data it is possible to get an idea on how the lowest paid workers must pay for the luxury to travel internationally.

Hours-worked-at-minimum-wage-required-to-buy-passport-by-country-2018

Interactive chart.

Rank affordability Issuing Country Cost USD Min wage USD Hours worked for passport Weeks (40hrs) for passport
41 Luxembourg $62.02 $13.05 4.75 0.12
40 Spain $32.25 $5.60 5.76 0.14
39 Germany $74.43 $9.99 7.45 0.19
3 Japan $150.06 $1.33 112.83 2.82
2 Russian Federation $62.05 $0.53 117.07 2.93
1 Mexico $96.93 $0.49 197.81 4.95

Full list.

A Luxembourgian on minimum wage will have to work just under 5 hours to buy a passport. Compare that to Mexico where a worker on minimum  would have to work almost 200 hours to buy a passport — that’s 5 working weeks!

Improvements

Minimum wage is concept that differs by country and is not necessarily the most accurate measure of affordability. It would be useful to compare other income metrics to passport cost, such as median or mean income.

tl;dr

The Australian passport is the most expensive to purchase, however, the Mexican passport is the most expensive when measured on minimum wage affordability.

Get the Data

Get all the data used in this blog post on Google Sheets.

Passport Power Rank 2018

Every year I write a yearly passport power post, and every year it appears the world has changed drastically since the last.

Next year will be no different. Expect this Brexit “remoaner” to be lamenting the massive reduction in the UK passport’s flexibility that currently allows holders access to 175 countries without requiring a visa.

Further from home there have been some other geopolitical issues that have directly affected citizen’s ability to travel. Last summer we saw tensions flare in the Middle East. Towards the end of 2017 Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un engaged in a nuclear war of words.

This post takes a look at how some of these events have affected citizens ability to travel compared to previous years.

Methodology

Each year Henley & Partners publishes a “Visa Restriction Index”, a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom that their citizens enjoy.

Points are awarded to countries for the number of destinations that offer visa-free travel to their citizens. e-Visas are treated the same as visas on arrival. Where the conditions for obtaining an e-visa are straightforward (fee, return ticket, hotel reservation), a visa-free point was assigned.

The ranking is based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which maintains the world’s largest and most accurate database of travel information, and is enhanced by extensive in-house research.

There are 219 destination countries (territories) in total. The maximum attainable score is 218 (points are not assigned for a national traveling to their own country).

Analysis

Best and worst passports for travel (2018)

Passport-Power-Rank-20181

Interactive map.

rank 2018 country UN-region visa-free-2018
1 Germany Europe 177
2 Sweden Europe 176
2 Italy Europe 176
 …  …  …  …
197 Syrian Arab Republic Africa 28
198 Iraq Middle East 27
199 Afghanistan Asia and the Pacific 24

Full list.

For the fifth year in a row, Germany tops the list. German citizens can travel to 177 destinations worldwide without requiring a visa (+1 vs. 2017). The top 3 countries remain unchanged in order from 2017.

At the other end of the ranking Iraq and Afghanistan remain in position 198 and 199, respectively, unchanged from last year with the same number of visa free restrictions (+0 vs. 2017). Pakistan climes one place from 2017 to rank 196th (+1 vs. 2017). with Syria entering the bottom 3 in 197th place having lost one visa free destination (-1 vs. 2017).

Year-on-year changes (2017 vs. 2018)

Total-of-Visa-Free-Relationships-by-Year-2013-2018

Download chart.

The world is becoming more accessible to citizens. Between 2017 and 2018 there was an additional 470 visa-free relationships — the biggest increase since 2013 to 2014.

Changes in travel restrictions (2017 vs. 2018)

Change-in-visa-free-destinations-2017-2018

Interactive chart.

Ukraine has seen much political turmoil in recent years which may attribute to its low rankings in previous years (98th with 82 visa-free destinations in 2017). The country jumps to 79th in 2018 with 114 visa-free destinations (+32 vs. 2017). Citizens of Georgia now enjoy 30 fewer visa requirements to enter other countries in 2018 compared with 2017.

Between 2017 and 2018 only 8 countries saw visa restrictions increase; Syria, North Korea, Lao, Algeria, New Zealand, Mongolia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Qatar (+1 vs. 2017).

Changes in travel restrictions (2013 vs. 2018)

Change-in-visa-free-destinations-2013-2018

Interactive chart.

When looking back to 2013, citizens of the UAE are the biggest winners for reduced travel restrictions (+62 vs. 2013). 22 countries have seen visa-free travel increase to at least 30 destinations.

In contrast, citizens of 15 countries have seen visa-free travel reduced. Syrian’s have faired worse (-11 vs. 2013). War torn countries like Yemen (-8 vs. 2013), Iraq (-4 vs. 2013), and Iraq (-4 vs. 2013) have also suffered with increased travel restrictions for citizens.

Improvements

Visa restrictions can change for a wide variety of reasons: security, political, social, etc. For additional studies it would be to add such context for each country to try and better understand why visa requirements seem to change so frequently.

tl;dr

The German passport remains the most flexible passport for travel with the fewest visa restrictions imposed upon holders.

Get the data

Data sources + data used in this post.