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

Released: 12 July 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.
  • Latest estimates highlight growth in overseas travel and tourism visits in the three months March to May 2012.
  • The rise in visits to the UK by overseas residents reflects longer term trends.
  • The rise in visits abroad by UK residents is in contrast to longer term falls.

Summary

The number of visits made to the UK by overseas residents is growing both short term and longer term:

  • The seasonally adjusted number of visits to the UK in the three months to May 2012 saw a growth of 8 per cent compared with the previous three months.

  • For 2012 year to date the number of visits is 5 per cent higher than in 2011.

  • In the 12 months to May 2012 the number of visits is 3 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Growth has occurred across the purposes of holiday, business and to visit friends or relatives, and from each of the three broad regions of the world (North America, Europe, Other countries).

The number of visits abroad has grown in the past three months but remains subdued longer term:

  • The seasonally adjusted number of visits abroad by UK residents grew by 4 per cent over the three months to May 2012 compared with the previous three months.

  • For 2012 year to date the number of visits is 1 per cent lower than in 2011.

  • In the 12 months to May 2012 the number of visits is 1 per cent lower than a year earlier.

Business visits abroad and those to visit friends or relatives have shown growth over the past five and twelve months respectively, but holiday visits are down 4 per cent year to date and 3 per cent in the past 12 months.

The trend of stronger growth in visits to the UK has resulted in a reduced deficit to the UK associated with overseas travel and tourism. The overseas travel and tourism deficit in the twelve months to May 2012 was £13.0 billion compared with £14.5 billion in the same period to May 2011. 

Seasonally adjusted number of visits from December 2011 to May 2012

Overseas residents' visits to the UK UK residents' visits abroad
Visits (thousands) Earnings (£ million) Visits (thousands) Expenditure (£ million)
seasonally adjusted
2011 Dec 2,510 1,420 4,610 2,640
2012 Jan 2,620 1,480 4,340 2,440
Feb 2,490 1,450 4,710 2,560
Mar 2,600 1,470 4,680 2,600
Apr 2,890 1,560 4,810 2,730
      May 2,720 1,560 4,650 2,690
three months ending
2012 Feb 7,620 4,350 13,660 7,640
May 8,210 4,590 14,140 8,020

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 May 2012 increased 8 per cent to 8.2 million compared with the previous three months. They increased 6 per cent when compared with the three months to May 2011.

The total number of visits to the UK by overseas residents, not seasonally adjusted, increased by 3 per cent during the 12 months ending in May 2012 compared with a year earlier (from 30.3 to 31.3 million).

This was due to visits from Europe increasing 3 per cent (to 22.9 million); visits from North America increasing 4 per cent (to 3.6 million); and visits from other parts of the world increasing 6 per cent (to 4.8 million).

Holiday visits increased 3 per cent (to 12.3 million); business visits increased 3 per cent (to 7.2 million); visits to friends or relatives increased by 6 per cent (to 9.1 million); and those for miscellaneous reasons decreased 4 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 Standards in Education

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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 May 2012 increased 4 per cent to 14.1 million compared with the previous three months. They decreased 2 per cent when compared with the three months to May 2011.

The total number of visits abroad by UK residents, not seasonally adjusted, decreased by 1 per cent during the 12 months ending in May 2012 compared with a year earlier (from 56.6 million to 55.7 million).

Visits to Europe remained broadly the same (at 43.3 million); visits to North America decreased 8 per cent (to 3.5 million); and visits to other parts of the world decreased 4 per cent (to 8.9 million).

Holiday visits decreased 3 per cent (to 35.9 million); business visits increased 2 per cent (to 6.8 million); visits to friends or relatives increased 2 per cent (to 11.5 million); and those for miscellaneous reasons decreased 5 per cent (to 1.5 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 May 2012, seasonally adjusted, with the previous three months, total spending by overseas visitors to the UK (earnings) increased 6 per cent to £4.6 billion and spending by UK residents overseas (expenditure) increased 5 per cent to £8.0 billion. The resulting deficit to the UK is £3.4 billion which is broadly the same as the deficit in the three months to May 2011.

During the 12 months ending May 2012, not seasonally adjusted, overseas earnings increased 6 per cent to £18.2 billion, and expenditure by UK residents decreased 2 per cent to  £31.2 billion. This resulted in a deficit to the UK of £13.0 billion compared with £14.5 billion during the same period to May 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 2010 can be obtained from the annual report, Travel Trends 2010 which was published on 28 July 2011. 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 new 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) and

    • 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 Q1) Averages over the last five years (bias) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    GMAT 7,720 54 151
    GMAX 13,730 199.50 330.50
    GMAZ 4,400 *87.75 *125.25
    GMBB 7,600 169 172

    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 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 was only one bank holiday in May instead of the usual two. This event is not regular, so no adjustment has been made to account for it as part of the seasonal adjustment process. Users are therefore likely to see an effect related to an additional working day in May in the seasonally adjusted series (and there will be an effect associated with two fewer working days in June). Caution should be taken when interpreting the movements involving May and June 2012, 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: 9 August 2012

    General IPS queries:

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

    E-mail: socialsurveys@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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    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.

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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 .
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