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.
The ONS revised IPS 2021 data on 16th August 2022 which led to some minor changes at the total level for visits, nights and spend but had a bigger impact at the individual country level. Please refer to the ONS website for more information. This page and the associated summary reports contain this revised data.
Please find a summary of 2021 data below as well as in this total UK summary report. Section 2 of this report also contains AIR only data for 2021 allowing 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, 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||3.8 million||6.4 million|
|Spend||£287 million||£545 million||£1.8 billion||£3.0 billion||£5.6 billion|
|Nights||12.0 million||14.8 million||32.0 million||34.9 million||93.5 million|
There were 6.4 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 £5.6bn in 2021 with Q4 generating the most spend at £3.0bn.
In total, 93.5 million nights were spent in the UK in 2021.
The average spend per visit in 2021 was £884, but this excluded any spend by those departing the UK by the Eurotunnel for the whole year 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|
|VFR||151,000||216,000||1.2 million||1.9 million||3.5 million|
|Misc. (excl. study)||39,000||38,000||125,000||209,000||411,000|
|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||£375 million||£868 million||£1.3 billion|
|VFR||£152 million||£188 million||£881 million||£1.2 billion||£2.4 billion|
|Business||£38 million||£88 million||£243 million||£570 billion||£939 million|
|Study||£41 million||£120 million||£168 million||£201 million||£529 million|
|Misc. (excl. study)||£45 million||£118 million||£105 million||£223 million||£492 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 3.5 million visits throughout the year. Holiday visits and Business visits each accounted for 19% of total inbound visits (1.2 million visits each). Study visits, traditionally a smaller inbound segment to the UK, totalled at 119,000. All other visits, under ‘miscellaneous’ accounted for 411,000 visits in 2021.
For spend, visits to friends and relatives brought in £2.4 billion to the UK in 2021, 42% of total inbound spend. £1.3 billion was spent by those visiting the UK for a holiday which equated to 23% of total spend. Business visits brought in £906 million (17% of total spend). Those visiting the UK to study spent £529 million in 2021. Just under £500 million was spent by those visiting the UK for miscellaneous purposes.
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||1.5 million||2.9 million||4.8 million|
|EU Total||147,000||216,000||1.4 million||2.7 million||4.4 million|
|EU 15||111,000||173,000||1.1 million||2.2 million||3.5 million|
|Rest of Europe||11,000||27,000||134,000||252,000||423,000|
|Rest of World||56.000||53,000||222,000||428,000||759,000|
|GLOBAL REGION (Spend)||Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar)||Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||Q4 2021 (Oct-Dec)||2021|
|Total Europe||£143 million||£247 million||£881 million||£1.6 billion||£2.9 billion|
|EU Total||£127 million||£205 million||£739 million||£1.4 billion||£2.5 billion|
|EU 15||£86 milllon||£162 million||£597 million||£1.2 billion||£2.0 billion|
|Other EU||£41 million||£44 million||£142 million||£208 million||£435 million|
|Rest of Europe||£16 million||£41 million||£143 million||£233 million||£433 million|
|North America||£31 million||£68 million||£329 million||£504 million||£932 million|
|Rest of World||£113 million||£231 million||£565 million||£909 million||£1.8 billion|
By global region, the majority of visits were from Europe in 2021 – 4.8 million visits (although this excludes visits by the Eurotunnel which is a popular route for those visiting from Europe). Of these visits, 60% fell in Q4 2021. Within Europe, there were 4.4 million visits from EU markets vs 423,000 from the Rest of Europe. There were 792,000 visits from North America, with 56% of visits in Q4. The remaining visits from the Rest of the World totalled at 759,000 in 2021.
In line with visits, spend from all regions increased throughout the year. Visitors from Europe spent £2.9 billion in 2021, accounting for over half (51%) of total inbound spend. Spend from North America totalled £923 million which was 16% of total spend. £1.8 billion spend came from the rest of the world, accounting for the remaining 32% of spend.
Visits and Spend by UK region
|Total England||5,770,000||£5.0 billion|
|Rest of England||3,244,000||£2.3 billion|
More detailed information on 2021 inbound data can be found on the ONS website.