The Office for National Statistics have released the final International Passenger Survey (IPS) results covering 2018. A summary report of the data can be found here (PDF, 540KB). This report is based on the information and data released by the ONS on 24th May 2019.
The table below shows trends in inbound tourism for the period 2003 to 2018 based on the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey. The number of visits in 2018 fell 3% (from the 2017 record) to 37.9 million, after several years of growth since 2010.
The value of spending also decreased by 7% (compared to 2017) to £22.90 billion. Average spend per visit was £604 in 2018, down from £625 per visit in 2017.
The number of visitor nights spent in the UK fell by 7% in 2018 to 266 million, with the average number of nights per visit declining to 7.0 (from 7.3 in 2017).
Headline trends in inbound tourism to the UK
Number of Visits (m)
|Spend (£bn)||Average spend per visit||Average nights per visit||Nights (m)|
Top 10 markets
The top ten inbound markets for the UK in terms of number of visits during 2018 accounted for almost two in three visits (63%). This proportion has been trending down over time: in 2005, the top ten accounted for 69% of all visits. The top ten markets have been the same every year since 2005; the only change in 2018 from 2017 was the USA overtaking France to claim first place. Only two long-haul markets, the USA and Australia, appear in the top ten.
Looking at spending by inbound visitors, the top ten markets contributed 53% of all spending, with the USA worth £1.9 billion more than the next most valuable market in 2018, Germany. In 2018 Canada returned to the top ten for value, Spain moved up one place to fourth, with Australia still maintaining a place in the top five.
|Top ten markets by volume||Top ten markets by value|
|Visits (000)||% of all visits||
|Spend (£m)||% of all spend|
Journey Purpose and Seasonal Spread
In 2018 two-in-five inbound visits to the UK were for a holiday (40%), whilst nearly a quarter (22%) were for business.
By contrast VFR trips account for a lower share of inbound visitor spend (25%) than they do of visits (31%), while holiday and business spending (45% and 20% respectively) are in line with their respective share of visits (40% and 22%).
Three fifths of holiday visits were during the middle quarters of the year in 2018 (29% April to June, 32% July to September) whilst around one-in-six (17%) were in the first three months of the year and just over a fifth (23%) in the last three months. By contrast business and VFR visits show a more even seasonal spread (22%-27% per quarter).
Mode of Travel
The UK enjoys excellent global connectivity, with well over 100 countries having direct air connections to the UK in 2018. In 2018 77% 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 86% in 2018.
Visitors who do not travel by air are almost evenly split between those who travel by ferry (13%) or use the Channel Tunnel (11%).
Distribution by area
|Rest of England||15,708||£7,463|