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

Released: 10 May 2012 Download PDF

Key Points

  • In the three months to March 2012, seasonally adjusted estimates of international visits to the UK grew 1 per cent versus the previous three months, whereas visits from the UK fell by 1 per cent.
  • Earnings from visits to the UK fell 3 per cent and expenditure on visits abroad also fell 3 per cent.
  • Longer term, non-seasonally adjusted visits to the UK have risen by 3 per cent in the past 12 months and earnings have grown by 5 per cent.
  • Visits abroad by UK residents have risen by 1 per cent in the past 12 months but expenditure on those visits has fallen by 2 per cent.

Summary Table and Graph

Seasonally adjusted number of visits from November 2011 to April 2012

Overseas residents' visits to the UK UK residents' visits abroad
Visits (thousands) Earnings (£ million) Visits (thousands) Expenditure (£ million)
seasonally adjusted
2011 Nov 2,500 1,520 4,450 2,560
Dec 2,510 1,420 4,600 2,630
2012 Jan 2,640 1,480 4,310 2,440
Feb 2,500 1,460 4,680 2,560
Mar 2,620 1,470 4,640 2,590
      Apr 2,890 1,560 4,770 2,730
three months ending
2012 Jan 7,650 4,420 13,350 7,640
Apr 8,020 4,480 14,090 7,880

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 March 2012 increased 1 per cent to 7.7 million compared with the previous three months. They increased 3 per cent when compared with the three months to March 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 March 2012 compared with a year earlier (from 30.0 to 30.9 million). This was due to visits from Europe increasing 2 per cent (to 22.6 million); visits from North America increasing 4 per cent (to 3.6 million); and visits from other parts of the world increasing 8 per cent (to 4.8 million).

Holiday visits increased 4 per cent (to 12.1 million); business visits increased 5 per cent (to 7.2 million); visits to friends or relatives increased by 3 per cent (to 8.9 million); and those for miscellaneous reasons decreased 2 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 March 2012 decreased 1 per cent to 13.6 million compared with the previous three months. They decreased 2 per cent when compared with the three months to March 2011.

The total number of visits abroad by UK residents, not seasonally adjusted, increased 1 per cent during the 12 months ending in March 2012 compared with a year earlier (from 55.6 million to 56.0 million). Visits to Europe increased 2 per cent (to 43.5 million); visits to North America decreased 5 per cent (to 3.5 million); and visits to other parts of the world decreased 3 per cent (to 9.0 million).

Holiday visits remained broadly the same (at 36.2 million); business visits increased 3 per cent (to 6.8 million); visits to friends or relatives increased 3 per cent (to 11.4 million); and those for miscellaneous reasons decreased 7 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 March 2012, seasonally adjusted, with the previous three months, total spending by overseas visitors to the UK (earnings) decreased 3 per cent to £4.4 billion and spending by UK residents overseas (expenditure) decreased 3 per cent to £7.5 billion. The resulting deficit to the UK is £3.2 billion compared with £3.2 billion in the three months to March 2011.

During the 12 months ending March 2012, not seasonally adjusted, overseas earnings increased 5 per cent to £18.0 billion, and expenditure by UK residents decreased 2 per cent to £31.1 billion. This resulted in a deficit to the UK of £13.1 billion compared with £14.5 billion during the same period to March 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 4 of 2011 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 4 of 2011.

  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 traveller 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.

  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

    Value in the latest period (2012 Q1) Revisions between first publications and estimates three years later
    Averages over the last five years (bias) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    GMAT 7,740 54 151
    GMAX 13,560 199.50 330.50
    GMAZ 4,400 *87.75 *125.25
    GMBB 7,550 169 172

    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.

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

  15. Next publication: 14 June 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

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

  16. 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 .
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