2021 inbound data

Inbound visitor statistics for 2021 (January - December)

The travel and tourism statistics published by The Office for National Statistics (ONS) are based on the results of the International Passenger Survey (IPS), but the running of the survey has been impacted because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During 2021, the IPS survey restarted at the majority of ports but did not operate at Dover until Q3 and there were no interviews on the Eurotunnel through the entirety of 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, the data for all passengers below does not represent the total inbound market for 2021 and is not directly comparable with historical UK total data. Pseudo records for the Irish land border were also removed in 2021.

Please find a summary of 2021 data below as well as in this total UK summary report which also contains AIR only data for 2021 which allows us to make direct comparisons to pre-COVID inbound statistics as IPS interviews were present at all UK airports throughout 2021. Regional data can be found further down this page as well as in this UK regional summary report.

The sample for the first three quarters of 2021 was lower than usual, especially in Q1, so caution should be used when interpreting results.

Visits, spend and nights

All passengers Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep) Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec) 2021
Visits 245,000 346,000 2.0 million 3.6 million 6.2 million
Spend £287 million £545 million £1.9 billion £3.0 billion £5.8 billion
Nights 12.0 million 14.8 million 36.4 million 36.1 million 99.3 million

There were 6.2 million inbound visits to the UK in 2021 with a gradual increase throughout the year as travel restrictions to the UK loosened and international travel resumed; 32% of visits were in Q3 and 59% were in Q4.

Visitors spent £5.8bn in 2021 with Q4 generating the most spend at £3.0bn.

In total, 99.3 million nights were spent in the UK in 2021.

The average spend per visit in 2021 was £934, but this excluded any spend by those departing the UK by the Eurotunnel and those departing by Dover (for the first half of 2021).

 Visits and spend by journey purpose

JOURNEY PURPOSE (vISITS) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep) Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec) 2021
Holiday 8,000 17,000 277,000 806,000 1.1 million
VFR 151,000 216,000 1.1 million 1.8 million 3.3 million
Business 34,000 56,000 373,000 748,000 1.2 million
Study 12,000 20,000 51,000 59,000 142,000
Misc. (excl. study) 39,000 38,000 125,000 203,000 405,000

 

JOURNEY PURPOSE (Spend)  Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep) Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec) 2021
Holiday £11 million £31 million £327 million £841 million £1.2 billion
VFR £152 million £188 million £818 million £1.2 billion £2.3 billion
Business £38 million £88 million £230 million £550 billion £906 million
Study £41 million £120 million £427 million £253 million £840 million
Misc. (excl. study) £45 million £118 million £119 million £218 million £501 million

2021 saw all journey purposes at a fraction of normal levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As might be expected due to travel restrictions for the majority of the year, visits to friends and relatives made up over half of visits in 2021 with 3.3 million visits throughout the year.

Business visits accounted for 20% of total inbound visits (1.2 million) followed by holiday visits, accounting for 18% of visits (1.1 million).

Study visits, traditionally a smaller inbound segment to the UK, totalled at 142,000.

All other visits, under ‘miscellaneous’ accounted for 405,000 visits in 2021.

Visits and spend by global region

GLOBAL REGION (Visits) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep) Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec) 2021
Total Europe 158,000 242,000 1.4 million 2.8 million 4.6 million
EU Total 147,000 216,000 1.3 million 2.5 million 4.2 million
EU 15 111,000 173,000 980,000 2.0 million 3.3 million
Other EU 36,000 42,000 287,000 482,000 847,000
Rest of Europe 11,000 27,000 126,000 244,000 409,000
North America 31,000 51,000 314,000 418,000 813,000
Rest of World 56.000 53,000 261,000 448,000 817,000
GLOBAL REGION (Spend) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep) Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec) 2021
Total Europe £143 million £240 million £767 million £1.5 billion £2.7 billion
EU Total £127 million £205 million £666 million £1.3 billion £2.3 billion
EU 15 £86 milllon £162 million £549 million £1.1 billion £1.9 billion
Other EU £41 million £44 million £118 million £203 million £405 million
Rest of Europe £16 million £34 million £100 million £202 million £353 million
North America £31 million £68 million £320 million £502 million £921 million
Rest of World £113 million £231 million £817 million £993 million £2.2 billion

By global region, the majority of visits were from Europe in 2021 at 4.6 million with over 60% falling in Q4, although this excludes visits by the Eurotunnel which is a popular route for those visiting from Europe.

Within Europe, there were 4.2 million visits from EU markets vs 409,000 from the Rest of Europe in 2021.

There were 813,000 visits from North America, with over 50% of visits in Q4.

The remaining visits from the Rest of the World totalled at 817,000 in 2021.

Visitors from Europe spent £2.7 billion in 2021, accounting for 46% of total inbound spend.

Spend from North America totalled £921 million which was 16% of total spend.

£2.2 billion spend came from the rest of the world, accounting for the remaining 38% of spend.

Visits and Spend by UK region

REGION VISITS SPEND
Total England 5,534,000 £5.1 billion
London 2,585,000 £2.6 billion
Rest of England 3,131,000 £2.5 billion
Scotland 536,000 £521 million
Wales 116,000 £60 million

More detailed information on 2021 inbound data can be found on the ONS website.

Detailed historical data from 2009 to Q1 2020 is available at the UK level and the regional level. Full 2020 data is presented on the 2020 inbound data page. Read the latest monthly data for 2022.