2021 Q1 & Q2 inbound data

Inbound visitor statistics for Q1 & Q2 2021 (January - June)

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 the first half of 2021 (January to June 2021), the IPS survey was operational at UK airports only. In ordinary times surveying would also be conducted at UK tunnel terminals (Eurostar and Eurotunnel) as well as some UK sea ports (e.g. Dover), but this was not possible during this period. Therefore, the data presented on this page and elsewhere on our website for Q1 & Q2 2021 is for air passengers only and is not comparable with historical UK total data. The comparisons made below compare January-June 2021 air data to January-June 2019 air data only as no equivalent is available for 2020. The sample for this period is very low so extreme caution should be used when interpreting results.

Visits, spend and nights (air passengers only)

Air passengers Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) YTD 2021 (Jan-Jun) % change vs. YTD 2019
Visits 195,000 277,000 471,000 -97%
Spend £248 million £386 million £634 million -94%
Nights 10.4 million 13.0 million 23.4 million -77%

The UK received 277,000 visits in Q2 2021, 97% below Q2 2019. There were 471,000 inbound visits to the UK in the first half of 2021 – down 97% compared to the same period in 2019.

Visitors spent £386 million in Q2 2021, down 94% on Q2 2019. The first half of 2021 saw £634 million spent by overseas visitors to the UK.

In total, 13.0 million nights were spent in the UK by inbound visitors during Q2 2021, down 78% on Q2 2019. From January to June 2021, 23.4 million nights were spent in the UK, down 77% on the same period in 2019.

The average spend per visit in the first half of 2021, amongst those who departed the UK via an airport was £1,345 (vs £706 in 2019).

Visits and spend by journey purpose (air passengers only)

Journey purpose (visits) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) YTD 2021 (Jan-Jun) % change vs. YTD 2019
Holiday 7,000 13,000 21,000 -99.6%
VFR 127,000 173,000 300,000 -94%
Business 20,000 44,000 64,000 -98%
Study 11,000 18,000 30,000 -87%
Miscellaneous (excl. study) 29,000 29,000 58,000 -93%
Journey purpose (spend) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) YTD 2021 (Jan-Jun) % change vs. YTD 2019
Holiday £10 million £21 million £31 million -99%
VFR £130 million £156 million £286 million -89%
Business £32 million £74 million £106 million -96%
Study £38 million £91 million £129 million -66%
Miscellaneous (excl. study) £37 million £44 million £81 million -83%

All journey purposes were a fraction of normal levels in the first half of 2021.

The table above shows the impact that restricted international travel has had on the UK’s inbound holiday visits with just 13,000 visits registered in Q2 2021. The total number of holiday AIR visits to the UK for the first half of 2021 was 21,000, down 99.6% on the same period in 2019.

As might be expected due to the restrictions at the time, visits to friends and relatives was the strongest category during the first half of 2021, making up 64% of all inbound AIR visits and 45% of total AIR spend.

Study visits, traditionally a smaller inbound segment to the UK, were the least impacted in the first half of 2021 with visits down 87% on two years previous and spend down 66%, contributing £129 million to the UK inbound AIR expenditure.

There were 64,000 business visits who spent £106 million in the first half of 2021 with 69% of those visits and 70% of that spend occurring in Q2 2021.

Visits and spend by global region (air passengers only)

Global region (visits) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) YTD 2021 (Jan-Jun) % change vs. YTD 2019
Total Europe 115,000 183,000 298,000 -97%
   EU Total 104,000 157,000 261,000 -97%
   EU 15 69,000 115,000 185,000 -97%
   Other EU 35,000 42,000 77,000 -94%
   Rest of Europe 11,000 26,000 36,000 -96%
North America 115,000 45,000 73,000 -97%
Rest of World 104,000 49,000 100,000 -97%
Global region (spend) Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar) Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun) YTD 2021 (Jan-Jun) % change vs. YTD 2019
Total Europe £114 million £190 million £304 million -93%
   EU Total £98 million £156 million £254 million -93%
   EU 15 £62 million £112 million £174 million -94%
   Other EU £37 million £43 million £80 million -88%
   Rest of Europe £16 million £34 million £50 million -92%
North America £28 million £60 million £89 million -96%
Rest of World £105 million £136 million £241 million -94%

Across all regions, AIR visits to the UK were down between 94% and 97% in the first half of 2021 when compared to the same period in 2019. AIR spend was down between 88% and 96%.

‘Other EU’ (which consists of Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Romania – amongst others) showed the strongest resilience with visits down 94% and spend down 88% in the first half of 2021.

Visits from the EU accounted for 55% of all inbound AIR visits but a smaller 40% of spend during the first half of the year.

Whilst North American visits were significantly down, they accounted for 15% of inbound visits and 14% of inbound spend, in line with the first half of 2019.

The Rest of the World region also saw a similar trend to 2019, accounting for just over one fifth of visits and nearly two fifths of spend.

As restrictions start to lift and change around the globe, VisitBritain have been releasing and revising our 2021 tourism forecast on a regular basis. 

Our latest central scenario forecast for 2021, as of 3rd September 2021, is 7.4 million visits and £5.3 billion spend. Please visit our forecast page for more information on this forecast and the latest update.

Detailed historical data from 2010 to Q1 2020 is available at the UK level and the regional level. Full 2020 data is presented on our dedicated 2020 inbound data page.

The ONS have made every effort to produce high-quality estimates for the periods when IPS data is not being collected but have not been able to produce a full set of results due to the risks associated with the results being misleading.  More detailed information on the approach used to produce 2020 results where interviewing had been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on the ONS website and for Q2 2021 details are on this ONS page.