The table below shows trends in inbound tourism for the period 2003 to 2013 based on the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey. The number of visits in 2013 reached a record 32.8 million, after several years of growth since 2010. Average spend per visit continues to climb over the past nine year recording £640 in 2013, driven on by the relative weakness of sterling.
The long-term trend is for the average length of time each inbound visitor stays in the UK to decline, however the figure has been fairly stable for the past six years, rebounding slightly in 2013. In line with many other developed economies the UK has an international tourism balance of payments deficit. This increased both rapidly and consistently in the decade to 2008, but has stabilised over the past few years.
Top 10 Markets
The top ten inbound markets for the UK in terms of number of visits during 2013 accounted for two in three visits (66%). It is noteworthy that only two long-haul markets, the USA and Australia, appear in the top ten. Looking at spending by inbound visitors, the top ten markets account for 52% of all spending, with the USA worth over £1 billion more than the next most valuable market, Germany. All of the top ten markets measured in terms of value are 'developed' rather than 'emerging' source markets for international tourism.
Fastest Growing and Declining Markets
The top 3 markets which have recently shown the highest absolute growth in value (on average during the last five years) are all long haul to the UK, namely China, USA and Australia. It is notable that the value of both the China and USA markets has grown on average by around £94m per year 2009-13. Whilst both the USA has shown growth in recent years in terms of visits it remains considerably smaller than in the 1990s. The 'relative' growth in value on average over the last five years shows the rapid rise in importance of the emerging markets from Mexico and China.
The markets which have declined most on average across the last five years in terms of absolute reduction and ‘relative’ decline in spending are topped by the Republic of Ireland market. The 'relative' decline figures show that the value of visits from Austria and Bulgaria have decreased by 5% each on average each year across the last five years.
Journey Purpose and Seasonal Spread
In 2013 nearly two-in-five inbound visits to the UK were for a holiday (39%), while almost a quarter (24%) were for business. Looking at the share of visitor nights by journey purpose it is clear that trips to visit friends or relatives (VFR) account for the largest share (38%), thanks to the fact that these trips involve a longer than average length of stay.
By contrast VFR trips account for a lower share of inbound visitor spend (22%) than they do of visits (28%), while holiday and business spending (40% and 24% respectively) are in line with their respective share of visits (39% and 24%).
Almost four in every six holiday visits were during the traditional holiday period in 2013 (29% April to June, 35% July to September) whilst only around one-in-six (16%) were in the first three months of the year. By contrast business visits show a more even seasonal spread (23%-27%), while VFR trips are more likely to take place in the last two quarters of the year (29%, 26%) than the January to March (21%) period.
Mode of Travel
The UK enjoys excellent global connectivity, with well over 100 countries having direct air connections to the UK in 2013. It can be seen from the pie chart that in 2013 almost three quarters of inbound visitors reached the UK by air.
As visitors who travel by air tend to spend more per visit than those using other means of transport the share of visitor spend accounted for by visitors who fly to the UK stood at 84% in 2013.
Visitors who do not travel by air are almost evenly split between those who travel by ferry (14%) or use the Channel Tunnel (13%).
Distribution by area
London is a key destination for inbound visitors to the UK. In 2013 16.8 million visitors spent time in the capital, spending just over £11bn. This represents 54% of all inbound visitor spending.
The rest of England attracted 13.6 million inbound visitors who spent an estimated £7.1bn, representing 34% of all inbound visitor spend. Scotland attracted 2.4 million visitors and 8% of all visitor spending, with the equivalent figures for Wales being 0.9 million visits and 2% of visitor spend. The 'other' category includes visits to the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, along with those visitors whose nights in the UK were spent travelling.