2019 snapshot

Headline statistics on inbound tourism to Britain including the number of visits from overseas for the latest full year of data.

From 22 May we will be working to update all of the data and documents on this page following the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revision of the International Passenger Survey (IPS) data for 2009-2018 and the released detailed 2019 data. Please be patient as we update these pages or contact the VisitBritain research team if you have any questions- VB/VEResearch@visitbritain.org. Thank you.

The Office for National Statistics have released the final International Passenger Survey (IPS) results covering 2019.  A summary report of the data can be found here (PDF, 471KB).  This report is based on the information and data released by the ONS on 22nd May 2020.  

As part of that data release, the ONS has revised inbound (and outbound) tourism data from 2009-19. Data has been significantly revised for some countries of residence, and to some degree for all countries; the total volume/value of tourism has also been revised upwards. More information is available on the ONS website or by contacting the VisitBritain Research Team. 

Trends

The table below shows trends in inbound tourism for the period 2003 to 2019 based on the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey. There were 40.9 million visits to the UK in 2019, 1% up on visits in 2018, but 1% fewer than in the record-holder 2017. Those inbound visitors spent £28.4 billion in 2019, up 7% on inbound spending in 2018, setting a new record for inbound spending. In total, they spent 289.6 million nights in the UK in 2019, 1% down on the number of nights spent in 2018. 

Headline trends in inbound tourism to the UK

Year

Number of Visits (m)

Spend (£bn) Average spend per visit Average nights per visit Nights (m)
2003 24.715 £11.855 £480 8.2 203
2004 27.755 £13.047 £470 8.2 227
2005 29.970 £14.248 £475 8.3 249
2006 32.713 £16.002 £489 8.4 273
2007 32.778 £15.960 £487 7.7 252
2008 31.888 £16.323 £512 7.7 246
2009 31.072 £17.594 £566 7.8 241
2010 30.398 £17.802 £586 7.8 236
2011 31.886 £18.973 £595 7.8 248
2012 32.221 £19.780 £614 7.5 242
2013 33.567 £22.238 £663 7.6 256
2014 35.337 £23.423 £663 7.9 278
2015 36.792 £23.839 £648 7.7 284
2016 39.129 £25.415 £650 7.7 300
2017 41.080 £28.396 £691 7.6 313
2018 40.283 £26.508 £658 7.2 291
2019 40.857 £28.448 £696 7.1 290

Top 10 markets

The top ten inbound markets for the UK in terms of number of visits during 2019 accounted for three in five visits (60%). 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; and the order of top 10 markets was maintained from 2018 to 2019. 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 52% of all spending, with the USA worth £2.5 billion more than the next most valuable market in 2019, China. In 2019, Italy moved up three places to 6th, and Spain and the UAE each dropped one ranking. 

Top ten markets by volume Top ten markets by value

From

Visits (000) % of all visits

From

Spend (£m) % of all spend
1 USA 4,499 11% USA £4,184 15%
2 France 3,561 9% China £1,710 6%
3 Germany 3,233 8% Germany £1,567 6%
4 Irish Republic 2,851 7% France £1,398 5%
5 Spain 2,326 6% Australia £1,174 4%
6 Italy 2,197 5% Italy £1,109 4%
7 Netherlands 1,987 5% Spain £977 3%
8 Poland 1,651 4% Irish Republic £958 3%
9 Belgium 1,135 3% UAE £869 3%
10 Australia 1,063 3% Netherlands £796 3%

Journey Purpose and Seasonal Spread

In 2019 over two-in-five inbound visits to the UK were for a holiday (41%), whilst nearly a quarter (21%) were for business.

By contrast VFR trips account for a lower share of inbound visitor spend (23%) than they do of visits (30%), while holiday and business spending (47% and 20% respectively) are in line with their respective share of visits (41% and 21%).

Just under three fifths of holiday visits were during the middle quarters of the year in 2019 (27% April to June, 32% July to September) whilst just under one-in-five (18%) were in the first three months of the year and almost a quarter (24%) in the last three months. By contrast business and VFR visits show a more even seasonal spread (21%-28% per quarter).

Mode of Travel

The UK enjoys excellent global connectivity, with well over 100 countries having direct air connections to the UK in 2019. In 2019 79% 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 88% in 2019.

Visitors who do not travel by air are almost evenly split between those who travel by ferry (11%) or use the Channel Tunnel (10%).

Distribution by area

Region 2019

 

Visits (000)

Spend (£m)
London 21,713 £15,725
Rest of England 16,937 £9,055
Total England 36,114 £24,780
Scotland 3,460 £2,538
Wales 1,023 £515