Overseas travel and tourism, provisional: April to June 2021

Visits to the UK by overseas residents, visits abroad by UK residents and spending estimates by travellers, using administrative sources of passenger travel data.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

Contact:
Email Angie Osborn

Release date:
29 October 2021

Next release:
To be announced

1. Main points (air travel only)

  • Overseas residents made 277,000 visits by air to the UK in Quarter 2 (April to June) 2021; this was 97% fewer than Quarter 2 2019 as travel continues to be restricted because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • Overseas residents spent £386 million on their visits to the UK in Quarter 2 2021; this was 94% less than in Quarter 2 2019.

  • UK residents made 1 million visits abroad by air in Quarter 2 2021, which was 95% fewer than Quarter 2 2019, attributable to coronavirus.

  • UK residents spent £1,122 million on visits abroad in Quarter 2 2021; this was 93% less than in Quarter 2 2019.

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This release only includes visits by air as insufficient sea and Tunnel data were collected because of coronavirus restrictions.

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2. International Passenger Survey and coronavirus

This article analyses data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS), which collects details from overseas residents leaving the UK, and UK residents returning home. Sea and Tunnel data are excluded, because of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions it was not possible to interview on board Dover ferries or the EuroTunnel. However, overall sea and Tunnel numbers provided by administrative data are much lower than pre-coronavirus and show a 95% drop in passengers when compared with Quarter 2 2019. Sea and Tunnel numbers are approximately 20% of all traffic pre-coronavirus.

The figures published in this article, for April to December 2020, are based on administrative sources and modelling, and the methods used are described in Section Data sources and quality. This is because the IPS was not run during this period because of COVID-19.

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3. Overseas’ residents visits to the UK

Overseas residents made a total of 277,000 visits to the UK during Quarter 2 (April to June) 2021, a decrease of 97% compared with Quarter 2 (April to June) 2019.

Visits to the UK by overseas visitors were low in Quarter 2 2021 when compared with Quarter 2 2019. Visiting friends and relatives decreased by 93% to 173,000, holiday visits decreased by 99.6% to 13,000 and business trips decreased by 97% to 44,000.

Estimated spending in the UK by overseas visitors decreased by 94% to £386 million in Quarter 2 2021 when compared with Quarter 2 2019. Similar levels of decrease were seen for all areas of the world.

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4. Visits abroad by UK residents

UK residents made 1 million visits abroad by air in Quarter 2 (April to June) 2021, 95% fewer than the same quarter in 2019. The largest number of visits was made to Europe (733,000), a fall of 96%.

Holidays were the least likely reason for UK residents' visits abroad. In Quarter 2 2021, there were just 173,000 holidays. Visits to friends or relatives were the most common reason for travelling, accounting for 60% of all visits (602,000).

UK residents spent £1,122 million during visits abroad in Quarter 2 2021. This was a decrease of 93% when compared with the same period in 2019.

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5. Travel and tourism review

We are currently reviewing the way in which travel and tourism statistics are produced. Our review provides the opportunity to gather a comprehensive understanding of user needs, and to explore how best they can be met in a changing environment.

The proposed approach represents a move towards a system that maximises the use of alternative data sources alongside survey data.

We are asking organisations and people who use travel and tourism statistics to provide feedback on this proposed approach through a user consultation exercise.

You can read more about our proposals and feedback on our approach.

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6. Improved methodology for the estimates

We have introduced methodological improvements to the travel and tourism estimates from the International Passenger Survey (IPS). These were introduced in the article Travel Trends 2019 and relate to the survey's weighting process. The improvements are described in the article in Improved methodology for the estimates in outline. A detailed technical report will be published in due course, setting out the changes comprehensively. These changes affect only travel and tourism and not estimates of long-term international migration.

Accuracy of the IPS estimates

The estimates presented in this article for the whole of 2020 must be treated with particular caution, since the methods used have not been fully scrutinised or tested.

Estimates for Quarter 2 2021 are based on passengers travelling by air only and percentage differences shown are a comparison with visits by air during Quarter 2 2019.

The accuracy of the estimates is expressed in terms of confidence intervals, which are shown in the datasets associated with this publication. For more information on how we measure and communicate uncertainty for our surveys, see our Uncertainty and how we measure it page.

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7. Overseas travel and tourism data

Estimates of overseas residents' visits and spending in the UK
Dataset | Released 29 October 2021
Quarterly estimates of overseas residents' visits and spending from the International Passenger Survey, using administrative sources and modelling.

Estimates of UK residents' visits and spending abroad
Dataset | Released 29 October 2021
Quarterly estimates of UK residents' visits and spending abroad from the International Passenger Survey, using administrative sources and modelling.

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8. Glossary

Visits

The figures relate to the number of completed visits, not the number of visitors. Anyone entering or leaving more than once in the same period is counted on each visit.

Overseas visitor

An overseas visitor is a person who, being permanently resident in a country outside the UK, visits the UK for a period of less than 12 months. UK citizens resident overseas for 12 months or more coming home on leave are included in this category. Visits abroad are visits for a period of less than 12 months by people permanently resident in the UK (who may be of foreign nationality).

Visiting multiple countries

When a resident of the UK has visited more than one country, expenditure and stay are allocated to the country stayed in for the longest time.

Miscellaneous visits

Visits for miscellaneous purposes include those for study, to attend sporting events, for shopping, health, religious or other purposes, together with visits for more than one purpose when none predominates (for example, visits both on business and on holiday). Overseas visitors staying overnight in the UK on their way to other destinations are also included in miscellaneous purposes.

Earnings and expenditure

Earnings refer to spending in the UK by overseas residents, whereas expenditure refers to spending abroad by UK residents.

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9. Data sources and quality

The collection of the IPS data

IPS data are collected by a team of over 200 interviewers who are recruited and trained specifically to work on the IPS. Interviews are carried out at air and sea ports, on board vessels leaving or returning to the UK, or on board the Eurotunnel Trains. Interviews are carried out on all days of the year, apart from Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Further guidance is available about the quality of overseas travel and tourism estimates in the IPS QMI report. This report will be updated shortly to reflect recent changes to the survey's processes.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Angie Osborn
socialsurveys@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 1633 455270