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Our summer quiz offers an eclectic test of knowledge, of pandemic-related developments, many in economics and business. The answers and a brief explanation of the factors at work are at the end of the quiz.

1. The prices of many goods and services have fluctuated widely over the last 18 months, particularly for those services affected by the pandemic. Prices for many such services declined sharply in 2020, but how have they changed this year? Match the percentages below to US price changes in 2021 for the following items: men’s suits, airfares, car rentals and hotel prices:

  1. +23%
  2. +70%
  3. -3%
  4. +28%

2. In 2000 overseas residents made 9.3m holiday visits to the UK, 7.3m business trips and 5.8m trips to see friends and family. The number of trips in each category has increased since then, before falling sharply in 2020 during the pandemic. Match the increase between 2000 and 2019 to the type of trip:

  1. 113%
  2. 18%
  3. 82%

3. Where is the cheapest place to buy a Big Mac for a traveller carrying dollars?

  1. Lebanon
  2. Venezuela
  3. Vietnam
  4. US

4. With travel restrictions making international trips difficult this year, many people are taking a chance on the weather and are booking domestic breaks. Where is the sunniest staycation destination in the UK?

  1. Sandbanks
  2. Folkstone
  3. Blackpool
  4. Bognor Regis

5. The UK has a relatively high vaccination rate. According to YouGov, the percentage of people in the UK who say they are likely to take the vaccine or have already done so is 91%. What was this figure when YouGov started asking the question last November?

  1. 95%
  2. 74%
  3. 61%
  4. 82%

6. House prices have risen across much of the world during the pandemic as remote workers moved out to bigger houses with more space for their home offices and larger gardens. Where, among the following countries, have house prices risen fastest in the 12 months to March, according to real estate consultancy Knight Frank?

  1. New Zealand
  2. US
  3. UK
  4. Spain

7. The pandemic has caused significant shifts in demand for labour in the UK. Demand for some types of roles is now running well above pre-pandemic levels, others have yet to recover. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, which one of the following sectors or occupations has seen the largest rise in vacancies?

  1. Domestic help
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Energy/oil & gas
  4. Transport/logistics/warehouse jobs

8. Despite unprecedented fiscal support across the West many households have suffered job losses or seen incomes decline during the pandemic. In which one of the following countries do households report the smallest negative impact on their financial situation from the pandemic?

  1. Germany
  2. Denmark
  3. UK
  4. Singapore

9. Increased demand for staycations has pushed up the prices of seaside holidays and created some unusual pricing differences. Match the prices below to the following types of accommodation, each for a week in August: a room at the Savoy Hotel in London, a bell tent at a campsite near Great Yarmouth, a lodge with two bedrooms at a caravan park near Newquay and a room at a Premier Inn in Bude, Cornwall

  1. £1,068
  2. £3,869
  3. £750
  4. £3,680

Answers

1. The prices of many goods and services have fluctuated widely over the last 18 months, particularly for those services affected by the pandemic. Prices for many such services declined sharply in 2020, but how have they changed this year? Match the percentages below to US price changes in 2021 for the following items: men’s suits, airfares, car rentals and hotel prices:

Answer: A. +23% = hotel prices; B. +70% = car rentals; C. -3% = men’s suits; D. +28% = airfares The easing of travel restrictions has led to a surge in demand. US hotel prices have risen by 23% this year, having fallen by 17% in Spring 2020. US car rental prices have risen by 70% after last year’s fall of 23%. As the pandemic hit car rental companies sold off large parts of their fleets. The recovery has brought a global shortage of semiconductors, which has limited car production and added to the upward pressure on rental prices. The move to homeworking has been bad news for sellers of office wear. The price of men’s suits in the US fell 13% in 2020 and a further 3% this year. The cost of US airfares has risen by 28% this year.

2. In 2000 overseas residents made 9.3m holiday visits to the UK, 7.3m business trips and 5.8m trips to see friends and family. The number of trips in each category has increased since then, before falling sharply in 2021 during the pandemic. Match the increase between 2000 and 2019 to the type of trip:

  1. 113%
  2. 18%
  3. 82%

Answer: A. 113% = visiting friends; B. 18% = business trips; C. 82% = holidays

Leisure travel has boomed this century fuelled by rising incomes and the growth of low-cost airlines. Visits by overseas residents to friends in the UK increased by 113% between 2000 and 2019. Over the same period the number of UK holidays taken by overseas residents rose by 82%. However, the number of business trips to the UK by overseas residents rose by just 18% between 2000 and 2019, less than half the rate of growth of UK GDP over the period. Slower growth in business travel probably reflects the rise of remote meetings and the long squeeze on corporate costs in the wake of the financial crisis.

3. Where is the cheapest place to buy a Big Mac for a traveller carrying dollars?

Answer: A. Lebanon – The Economist’s Big Mac Index aims to capture the purchasing power of different currencies. According to the Index, Lebanon is the cheapest place to buy a Big Mac. Although the nominal price of the burger has increased sharply to 37,000 Lebanese pounds, the currency has collapsed at a faster rate due to economic difficulties, meaning the burger costs just $1.68, compared to $5.65 in the US. One reason the burger has remained so cheap despite the sharp depreciation in the exchange rate is that importers can purchase some of the ingredients at a more favourable, subsidised exchange rate. A Big Mac costs just $3.00 in Vietnam but an eye-watering $8.35 in Venezuela. The fall in the value of the Venezuelan bolivar has been unable to keep up with the hyperinflation, pushing up the dollar price of goods and services and making Venezuela the most expensive place to buy a Big Mac, according to the Economist index.

4. With travel restrictions making international travel difficult this year, many people are taking a chance on the weather and are booking domestic breaks. Where is the sunniest staycation destination in the UK?

Answer: A. Folkstone and D. Bognor Regis – Research by UK car dealer Evans Halshaw found that the seaside towns of Bognor Regis, in West Sussex, and Folkstone, in Kent, were the sunniest of 1,000 UK travel destinations. Both towns were found to have 194 hours of sun each month, and an average maximum temperature of 16 degrees. Showers to You, a bathroom supply company, used Met Office data to identify the wettest towns and cities in the UK. Cardiff was found to be the wettest city with Glasgow in second place.

5. The UK has a relatively high vaccination rate. According to YouGov, the percentage of people in the UK who say they are likely to take the vaccine or have already done so is 91%. What was this figure when YouGov started asking the question last November?

Answer: C. 61% – The percentage of people in the UK who say they are likely to take the vaccine or have already done so rose from 61% in November to reach the current level of 91%. Many other countries have seen even bigger increases. In Spain the proportion has risen from 53% to 92%, in Italy from 52% to 85% and in France from 32% to 80%. Research by The Economist found that the severity of the pandemic and the pace of vaccination itself have been key factors behind the growing willingness to take the vaccine. As those who are sceptical see friends and family take the vaccine without ill effect their views tend to change. What economists call the bandwagon effect, the way in which the growing popularity of anything tends to attract more adherents, is also likely to be a factor. When something becomes the norm, it becomes harder to resist. We are creatures of convention.

6. House prices have risen across much of the world during the pandemic as remote workers moved out to bigger houses with more space for their home offices and larger gardens. Where, among the following countries, have house prices risen fastest in the 12 months to March, according to real estate consultancy Knight Frank?

Answer: A. New Zealand – According to Knight Frank, New Zealand house prices have risen by 22%, supported by low mortgage rates, pent-up demand and limited supply. US and UK house prices have risen by 13% and 10%, respectively. Spain’s housing market has gone in the opposite direction, with house prices falling 1.8%; foreign demand has been especially hard hit.

7. The pandemic has caused significant shifts in demand for labour in the UK. Demand for some types of roles is now running well above pre-pandemic levels, others have yet to recover. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, which one of the following sectors or occupations has seen the largest rise in vacancies?

Answer: D. Transport/logistics/warehouse jobs – The growth of e-commerce has boosted demand for staff in transport, logistics and warehousing, according to online job search agency Adzuna. Vacancies in the sector have risen almost three-fold compared to pre-pandemic levels. Manufacturing adapted to the lockdowns and has seen a strong rebound in activity in recent months. Manufacturing job vacancies are running at 150% of pre-pandemic levels. Demand for domestic help has been boosted by homeworking while an exodus of foreign-born workers from the UK last year has exacerbated labour shortages. Vacancies for domestic staff are running 88% above pre-pandemic levels. While activity in the oil & gas sector has picked up it remains weaker than before the crisis and vacancies on Adzuna’s index are 21% below pre-COVID levels.

8. Despite unprecedented fiscal support across the West many households have suffered job losses or seen incomes decline during the pandemic. In which one of the following countries have households reported the smallest negative impact on their financial situation from the pandemic?

Answer: B. Denmark – In a recent YouGov survey, only 12% of Danes reported a worsening of household finances due to the pandemic. Sweden has done slightly worse, with a fifth of respondents reporting weaker finances. The UK, US and Germany have similar readings, with just over a fourth of respondents reporting weaker finances. In Singapore and Italy, more than 40% of respondents say their household finances have suffered during the pandemic.

9. Increased demand for staycations has pushed up the prices of seaside holidays and created some unusual pricing differences. Match the prices below to the following types of accommodation, each for a week in August: a room at the Savoy Hotel in London, a bell tent at a campsite near Great Yarmouth, a lodge with two bedrooms at a caravan park near Newquay and a room at a Premier Inn in Bude, Cornwall

  1. £1,068
  2. £3,869
  3. £750
  4. £3,680

Answer: A. £1,068 = a room at Premier Inn in Bude; B. £3,869 = two-bedroom lodge at a caravan park near Newquay; C. £750 = a bell tent at campsite near Great Yarmouth; D. £3,680 = a room at the Savoy

The cost of domestic holiday accommodation has surged with the strongest price increases for seaside breaks. It is more expensive to stay for a week in a two-bedroom lodge at Piran Meadows, a caravan park near Newquay, than it is to spend a week at the Savoy, one of London’s most famous luxury hotels. According to holiday let company AirDNA, the cost of holiday accommodation in Cornwall was 30% higher in July of this year than in July 2019. Rising prices have encouraged more owners to let out their properties. According to the Guardian, the number of active listings on Airbnb in Great Yarmouth is 43% higher than at the same time last year.