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Statistical bulletin: Overseas Travel and Tourism, June 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 09 August 2012 Download PDF

Key points

  • This Statistical Bulletin provides estimates of international visits to and from the UK, and earnings and expenditure relating to these visits.
  • The estimates are derived from responses collected on the International Passenger Survey, conducted by the Office for National Statistics.
  • Visits to the UK by overseas residents have been growing in 2012. However, in June they fell relative to a year earlier.
  • Visits abroad by UK residents have been generally stable, but in June 2012 there were 6.1 million visits compared with 5.6 million in June 2011.
  • June 2012 was an unusual month in the UK, with the late May bank holiday moved to 4 June and 5 June set as a special bank holiday.

Summary

June 2012 saw a fall in estimated visits to the UK by overseas residents, from 2.9 million in June 2011 to 2.6 million. Earnings from these visits fell from £1.7 billion to £1.6 billion.

This fall represents a deviation from the short and medium term trends of increasing visits to the UK:

  • The seasonally adjusted number of visits to the UK in the three months to June 2012 saw a growth of 3 per cent compared with the previous three months.

  • For 2012 year to date the number of visits is 2 per cent higher than in 2011.

  • In the 12 months to June 2012 the number of visits is 2 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Visits from North America are up 5 per cent in the first half of 2012 compared with a year earlier, those from Europe by 2 per cent and from other countries by 2 per cent. However, those from EU15 countries are broadly unchanged in 2012, and it was primarily among residents of these countries that visits to the UK fell in June 2012.

The growth of visits abroad by UK residents (from 5.6 million to 6.1 million) during June was accompanied by an increase in expenditure abroad, from £3.0 billion to £3.2 billion. The increase represents a deviation from generally stable visit numbers:

  • The seasonally adjusted number of visits abroad by UK residents grew by 6 per cent over the three months to June 2012 compared with the previous three months.

  • For 2012 year to date the number of visits is broadly the same as in 2011.

  • In the 12 months to June 2012 the number of visits is broadly the same as a year earlier.

British residents have taken 4 per cent more business trips abroad in the first half of 2012 and 3 per cent more visits to friends or relatives. They have made 2 per cent less holiday visits abroad in 2012, but in June took 4.3 million holidays compared with 4.1 million in June 2011.

Seasonally adjusted number of visits from January to June 2012

Overseas residents' visits to the UK UK residents' visits abroad
Visits (thousands) Earnings (£ million) Visits (thousands) Expenditure (£ million)
seasonally adjusted
2012 Jan 2,620 1,480 4,360 2,450
Feb 2,490 1,450 4,730 2,580
Mar 2,600 1,470 4,700 2,620
Apr 2,890 1,560 4,850 2,750
May 2,700 1,560 4,690 2,710
      Jun 2,380 1,450 5,030 2,750
three months ending
2012 Mar 7,700 4,400 13,800 7,650
Jun 7,970 4,560 14,570 8,210

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Overseas residents' visits to the UK and UK residents' visits abroad (seasonally adjusted)

Number of visits to and from the UK over the last two years
Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS) - Office for National Statistics

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Visits to the UK by overseas residents

The estimated number of visits to the UK by overseas residents, seasonally adjusted, in the three months to June 2012 increased 3 per cent to 8.0 million compared with the previous three months. They increased 3 per cent when compared with the three months to June 2011.

The total number of visits to the UK by overseas residents, not seasonally adjusted, increased by 2 per cent during the 12 months ending in June 2012 compared with a year earlier (from 30.6 to 31.1 million).

This was due to visits from Europe increasing 1 per cent (to 22.6 million); visits from North America increasing 5 per cent (to 3.7 million); and visits from other parts of the world increasing 4 per cent (to 4.8 million).

Holiday visits increased 1 per cent (to 12.1 million); business visits increased 3 per cent (to 7.3 million); visits to friends or relatives increased by 5 per cent (to 9.1 million); and those for miscellaneous reasons decreased 7 per cent (to 2.7 million). (Tables 1, 2 and 3)

Overseas residents' visits to the UK by month (seasonally adjusted)

Number of visits to the UK by overseas residents over the last two years
Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS) - Office for National Statistics

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Visits abroad by UK residents

The estimated number of visits abroad by UK residents, seasonally adjusted, in the three months to June 2012 increased 6 per cent to 14.6 million compared with the previous three months. They remained broadly the same when compared with the three months to June 2011.

The total number of visits abroad by UK residents, not seasonally adjusted, remained broadly the same during the 12 months ending in June 2012 compared with a year earlier (at 56.8 million).

Visits to Europe increased by 1 per cent (to 44.0 million); visits to North America decreased 3 per cent (to 3.6 million); and visits to other parts of the world decreased 1 per cent (to 9.2 million).

Holiday visits decreased 2 per cent (to 36.5 million); business visits increased 5 per cent (to 7.0 million); visits to friends or relatives increased 4 per cent (to 11.7 million); and those for miscellaneous reasons increased 7 per cent (to 1.6 million). (Tables 1, 4 and 5)

UK residents' visits abroad by month (seasonally adjusted)

Number of visits abroad by UK residents over the last two years
Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS) - Office for National Statistics

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Overseas earnings and expenditure

Comparing the three months to June 2012, seasonally adjusted, with the previous three months, total spending by overseas visitors to the UK (earnings) increased 4 per cent to £4.6 billion and spending by UK residents overseas (expenditure) increased 7 per cent to £8.2 billion. The resulting deficit to the UK is £3.7 billion compared with £3.6 billion in the three months to June 2011.

During the 12 months ending June 2012, not seasonally adjusted, overseas earnings increased 5 per cent to £18.2 billion, and expenditure by UK residents increased 1 per cent to  £31.9 billion. This resulted in a deficit to the UK of £13.8 billion compared with £14.4 billion during the same period to June 2011. (Tables 1 and 6)

Spending by overseas residents in the UK and spending by UK residents overseas by month (seasonally adjusted)

Earnings and expenditure over the last two years
Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS) - Office for National Statistics

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Background notes

  1. The estimates contained in this publication focus on travel and tourism with analysis based on visits (for any purpose) of less than 12 months duration by:

    • overseas residents to the UK, and

    • UK residents abroad.

    Estimates of the number and profile of visits to the UK by overseas residents are drawn from interviews conducted on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) with overseas residents as they leave the UK at the end of their visit. Visits abroad by UK residents are drawn from interviews conducted UK residents as they return to the UK at the end of their visit abroad. In the case of UK residents, if more than one country was visited on a trip, the country recorded as visited in ONS's Overseas Travel and Tourism publications is the country that was visited for the longest period.

    Note that, although data by the International Passenger Survey (IPS) also feeds into the calculation of migration statistics, this report does not provide any information relating to International migration.

  2. Figures for the most recent months are provisional and subject to revision in light of:

    • more accurate data on passenger figures becoming available at the end of each quarter and

    • additional passenger data obtained at the end of each year.

  3. Detailed analyses for Quarter 1 of 2012 may be obtained from the publication Quarterly Overseas Travel and Tourism. Further information and a full breakdown of the figures for 2011 can be obtained from the annual report, Travel Trends 2011 which was published on 26 July 2012. Travel Trends and Quarterly Overseas Travel and Tourism and a compact dataset, Travelpac (giving a selection of variables drawn from the survey) are available from the Office for National Statistics website. The Travelpac datasets are available up to and including Quarter 1 of 2012.

  4. In 2010 a review took place of the methodology used to estimate the number of visits made by UK residents on foreign-owned cruises which terminate in the UK. Such cruises have never been sampled in IPS and estimates have been created using passenger traffic information provided to the IPS, and reported in published estimates of total visits abroad. The recent review has led to more accurate methodology for estimating these visits and has resulted in an annual increase from approximately 20 thousand to 200 thousand of such visits. The new estimates have been included in this publication from January 2010 onwards.

  5. The main series are seasonally adjusted. This aids interpretation by identifying seasonal patterns and calendar effects and removing them from the unadjusted data. The resulting figures give a more accurate indication of underlying movements in the series.

    The model used to produce seasonal adjustment estimates is reviewed by ONS approximately every two years. A review was conducted in late 2009 and the new model was used for the first time to produce the seasonally adjusted estimates used in the December 2009 publication. Since the July 2010 publication, seasonal adjustment analysis has been undertaken using X-12-ARIMA. Details of the seasonal adjustment model can be requested from the IPS team using the statistical contact details listed at the end of these notes.

  6. The estimates produced from the IPS are subject to sampling errors that result because not every traveler to the UK is interviewed on the survey. Sampling errors are determined both by the sample design and by the sample size - generally speaking, the larger the sample supporting a particular estimate, the proportionately smaller its sampling error. The survey sample size is approximately 70,000 per quarter.

    ONS publishes both standard errors and confidence intervals relating to quarterly figures in its publication Quarterly Overseas Travel and Tourism under the heading, 'Accuracy of IPS Estimates'. The quarterly publications can be found on the ONS website.

    The relative confidence interval associated with three-monthly estimates is approximately 5 per cent for visits to the UK and 3 per cent for visits abroad. Confidence intervals for 12-monthly estimates are approximately 2 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.  

  7. One indication of the reliability of the key indicators in this release can be obtained by monitoring the size of revisions. The table below records the size and pattern of revisions which have occurred over the last five years to the following key seasonally adjusted estimates:

    • The number of visits by overseas residents to the UK (GMAT).

    • The number of visits abroad by UK residents (GMAX).

    • Earnings made from overseas residents in the UK (GMAZ).

    • Expenditure abroad by UK residents (GMBB).

    Revisions over the last five years

    Revisions between first publications and estimates three years later
    Value in the latest period (2012 Q2) Averages over the last five years (bias) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    GMAT 7,980 36.50 158.50
    GMAX 14,290 155 304
    GMAZ 4,480 *76.25 *121.75
    GMBB 7,940 *176 *179

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Table notes:

    1. Units: GMAT and GMAX in thousands, GMAZ and GMBB in £million.
    2. A statistical test has been applied to find out if the mean revision to each key indicator is statistically different from zero. An asterisk (*) indicates where the mean revision has been significantly different from zero.

    Download table

    Spreadsheets giving revisions triangles (real time databases) of estimates for the period illustrated in the table, and calculations behind the averages shown, are available in the data section of this publication.

    Please note that all estimates, including revised estimates, are based on a sample survey and are therefore subject to sampling and other sources of error. Further information on the ONS revisions policy can be found on the ONS website.

  8. This publication includes estimates of number of visits split by purpose. This detail was introduced for the first time in the 'September 2009' publication in response to a notable trend in the profile of visits on this dimension.

  9. Abbreviations used in the tables:

     NA      ...not available

     SA      ...seasonally adjusted

    NSA    ...not seasonally adjusted

            ...point of earliest revision

    1        ...estimate (rounded to nearest 10,000 visits or £5 million)

  10. Geographical areas:

    • North America:

    Canada (including Greenland and St Pierre et Miquelon), USA (including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands).

    • Europe:

    All countries listed under EU27 plus other central & Eastern Europe, North Cyprus, Gibraltar, Iceland (including Faroe Islands), Norway, Switzerland (including Liechtenstein), Turkey, the former USSR and the states of former Yugoslavia

    • EU15:

    Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France (including Monaco), Finland, Germany, Greece, Irish Republic, Italy (including San Marino and Vatican City), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal (including Azores and Madeira), Spain (including Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands and Andorra) and Sweden.

    • EU25:

    As for EU15 plus, Cyprus*, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

    • EU27:

    As for EU25 plus, Bulgaria and Romania.

    • A12:

    All countries included in EU27 but not included in EU15.

    *Only the south of Cyprus is a member of the EU but the IPS is unable to separate North and South Cyprus for the period before May 2004 and so all of Cyprus is included in the EU27 section until May 2004. From May 2004, only southern Cyprus is included in the EU27 figures.

  11. Constituent items in the tables may not add exactly to totals due to rounding.

  12. From 1 January 2009 certain elements of the IPS were revised to address recommendations put forward by the Inter-Departmental Task Force on Migration Statistics, 2006. The changes involved revisions to sample design, weighting and imputation methodology. These changes may result in some discontinuity in estimates.

  13. The information provided to the ONS by respondents is treated as strictly confidential as directed by the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. It is used to produce statistics that will not identify any individuals.

  14. As part of the celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee there were changes to bank holidays in May and June 2012. The change to the holidays count as a statistical special event in line with ONS's policy on Special Events. In 2012 there were two additional bank holidays in June. This event is not regular, so no adjustment has been made to account for it as part of the seasonal adjustment process (as announced in the April release). Users are therefore likely to see an effect related to two fewer working days in June in the seasonally adjusted series (and there was an effect associated with one extra working day in May). Caution should be taken when interpreting the movements involving May and June 2012, and particularly the movement between May and June where both months are affected, as the Jubilee Bank holidays create some additional uncertainty. 

  15. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

  16. Next publication: 13 September 2012

    General IPS queries:

    For general questions about IPS and requests for ad hoc data analysis (a service governed by the ONS Income and Charging policy):

    Tel: Data Advice Relations Team +44 (0)1633 455678

    Email: socialsurveys@ons.gsi.gov.uk

  17. The International Passenger Survey has taken steps to produce robust estimates of visits to the UK during the time of London 2012, including the number of overseas residents who have visited an Olympics event. Reporting of estimates relating to August 2012 will be published in October 2012.

  18. Copyright and reproduction

    © Crown copyright 2012

    Under the terms of the Open Government Licence and UK Government Licensing Framework, anyone wishing to use or re-use ONS material, whether commercially or privately, may do so freely without a specific application for a licence, subject to the conditions of the OGL and the Framework.

    For further information, contact the Office of Public Sector Information, Crown Copyright Licensing and Public Sector Information, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU.

    Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444

    Email psi@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk

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  20. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Roger Smith +44 (0)1633 455277 Social Surveys socialsurveys@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.