Overseas travel and tourism: June 2019 provisional results

Visits to the UK by overseas residents, visits abroad by UK residents and spending by travellers, using provisional passenger traffic data.

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This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Giles Horsfield

Release date:
24 September 2019

Next release:
24 October 2019

1. Main points

  • There were 3.5 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in June 2019 (9% more than in June 2018).

  • Overseas residents spent £2.3 billion on visits to the UK in June 2019 (13% more than in June 2018).

  • UK residents made 6.8 million visits overseas in June 2019 (7% fewer than in June 2018).

  • UK residents spent £4.5 billion on visits overseas in June 2019 (1% more than in June 2018).

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2. Things you need to know about this release

This bulletin presents estimates of overseas visits to and from the UK. An overseas visitor to the UK means 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).

Overseas travel and tourism quarterly estimates are revised during the processing of the annual dataset. The most up-to-date and accurate estimates for the previous year’s published quarters can be found in the latest edition of Travel trends.

The International Passenger Survey (IPS) has recently transferred outputs from data collected on paper forms to an improved method using tablet computers. Tablet data collection was phased in gradually from September 2017 to April 2018. More background information about the rollout of tablets is available.

The tablets allow us to improve the quality of the IPS data collected. Discontinuities (that is, step changes in the time series) arising from the introduction of tablet data collection in the IPS are therefore possible. We have worked with academic experts and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Methodology team to produce a method for detecting any such discontinuities.

We have continued to monitor the results as more data have become available. Further analysis using a longer series of data is required to determine whether there are any discontinuities. Some caution is still therefore advised in the interpretation of data in this release.

Further methodological changes are planned to the estimates on international visitors in the IPS. These are weighting adjustments to address concerns about the imbalance (that is, large differences in numbers) in the IPS between the estimates of numbers of visitors arriving and departing for some nationalities. The new method has been developed in consultation with users and methodological experts, and it is currently being finalised. The new method will be implemented as soon as possible, and the implementation date will be published in advance. A revised back series will also be published at this time.

The changes in data collection methods and planned methodological changes were described in the Travel trends 2017: recent data collection changes and planned methodological changes article, in July 2018.

Please note that while the imbalance work is unlikely to affect long-term migrants in the IPS, we have committed to exploring whether the survey processes that cause the imbalance in international visitor estimates also impact on long-term migration further, as part of the ONS migration statistics’ workplan to understand different migration data sources.

Estimates contained in this bulletin are produced from responses provided by international passengers arriving in and departing from the UK, sampled on the IPS, as outlined in the International passenger survey Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report.

Responses to the survey are scaled up to represent all passengers, using information on total international passenger traffic for the reporting period.

Estimates are based on interviews conducted when passengers end their visit. Any visits commencing in the reported month but not completed until later are not included in estimates for the reported month. The reported expenditure for visits includes any spending associated with the visit (excluding fares) that occurs before, during or after the trip.

Parts of the bulletin refer to countries visited abroad. It should be noted that if a UK resident visited more than one country on a trip abroad, the country recorded as visited in this bulletin is the country that was visited for the longest period.

Estimates are subject to sampling error, and confidence intervals are provided to help you interpret the estimates (see Accuracy of IPS estimates in Section 7 for more information). Further guidance is available about the quality of overseas travel and tourism estimates in the International passenger survey QMI report.

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7. Quality and methodology

The International Passenger Survey (IPS) Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • the uses and users of the data
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

The IPS QMI report outlines the definitions and sample methodology.

Accuracy of IPS estimates

This section describes how revisions are carried out in the standard production cycle of the survey. Additional potential revisions, to be made on a one-off basis, are described in the Things you need to know about this release section.

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.

IPS monthly estimates are revised in line with the IPS revisions policy. The revisions policy is available in the IPS QMI report to assist you in understanding the cycle and frequency of data revisions. You are strongly advised to read this policy before using these data for research or policy-related purposes.

Planned revisions usually arise from the receipt of revised passenger traffic data. Unplanned revisions are made to correct errors to existing data that are identified later in the quarterly and annual processing cycle. Those of significant magnitude will be highlighted and explained.

Revisions to published monthly IPS estimates can be expected at the following times in the normal overseas travel and tourism publication schedule:

  • monthly estimates for the current reference year will usually be revised and statistically benchmarked across the quarter, following the publication of the quarterly estimates that month falls within

  • monthly and quarterly estimates for the current reference year will be revised in the survey year’s annual data release (Travel trends)

  • monthly estimates for the full calendar year will be statistically benchmarked as part of the annual data processing and the monthly estimates for the year will then be replaced in the monthly release, with the benchmarked estimate following publication of the annual report (Travel trends)

All other revisions will be regarded as unplanned and will be dealt with by non-standard releases. All revisions will be released in compliance with the same principles as other new information. Please refer to our guide to statistical revisions.

Seasonally adjusted figures are no longer shown in the main figures in the bulletin but continue to be presented in the tables.

The estimates produced from the IPS are subject to sampling errors that occur because not every traveller to and from the UK is interviewed on the survey. Sampling errors are determined both by the sample design and by the sample size.

Generally, the larger the sample supporting a particular estimate, the proportionately lower its sampling error. The survey sample size is approximately 20,000 per month. However, as the intensity of the sampling varies at each port, figures of a similar magnitude will not necessarily have the same percentage sampling error.

The accuracy of the estimates is expressed in terms of confidence intervals. The confidence interval is a range within which the true value of a proportion lies with known probability. For example, the 95% confidence interval represents the range into which there are 19 chances out of 20 that the true figure would fall had all passengers been sampled. This is obtained as plus or minus 1.96 multiplied by the standard error.

Confidence intervals for quarterly estimates and annual estimates are provided in our relevant overseas travel and tourism publications.

One indication of the reliability of the main indicators in this release can be obtained by monitoring the size of revisions. Table 4 records the size and pattern of revisions to the quarterly IPS data that have occurred over the last five years to the following main 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)

Note that estimates are subject to revision between the monthly statistical bulletin and the quarterly publication, and again when Travel trends is published. Revisions result from more accurate passenger figures being made available.

More information about the IPS revisions policy is available in the QMI report. The most up-to-date and accurate estimates for all published months can be found in the latest edition of the Overseas travel and tourism monthly statistical bulletin.

Note that although data from the IPS feed into the calculation of migration statistics, the overseas travel and tourism publications do not provide any information relating to international migration.

Other analyses

For general questions about the IPS and requests for data analysis (a service governed by our income and charging policy), please get in touch using the contact details accompanying this release.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Giles Horsfield
socialsurveys@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455731