About the International Passenger Survey

The International Passenger Survey (IPS) is a continuous survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).  It covers all major air, sea and tunnel ports, providing detailed information on the numbers and types of visits made by people travelling to and from the UK.

The Office for National Statistics released the final International Passenger Survey (IPS) results covering 2021 on 15 June 2022. 

Data is published regularly by ONS on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis. Anonymous face-to-face interviews are undertaken with a random sample of passengers as they enter or leave the UK. Approximately 95 per cent of passengers entering and leaving the UK have a chance of being sampled on the survey.

We analyse the data on visits to the UK by overseas residents. Take a look at our markets, quarterly data and regions to view the data.

Each year VisitBritain sponsors questions on the International Passenger Survey to understand more about visitors to the UK. Find out what questions we have sponsored and are sponsoring in the future (XLS, 206KB).

If you would like more information on the survey, please view our frequently asked questions (PDF, 281KB), download our guide on IPS Methodology (PDF, 534KB) to understand how the survey is administered and how national estimates are produced from the sample and take a look at how world regions and countries (XLS, 16KB) are defined.

Alternatively, further details about the survey can be found on the ONS website.

If you are looking for information about inbound tourism to countries other than the UK, possible sources include the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and, particularly for European data, TourMIS.

IPS Revisions

IPS estimates are subject to both planned and unplanned revisions. Planned revisions are carried out on the IPS data as updated passenger information is made available and statistical benchmarking is applied. The annual data contains all revisions and is considered the final data.

Once such planned revision occurred in May 2020 to address an observed imbalance between the IPS estimates for the number of visitors between the departures and arrivals within the IPS, for different nationalities. A new adjustment method which updated the weightings applied during survey processing was developed by the ONS and the Social Statistics department of the University of Southampton.

The ONS retrospectively applied a new adjustment method and revised all inbound (and outbound) tourism data from 2009 to 2018 and it will continue to apply this adjustment method to all future data releases.  Data was 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.  We have summarised some key changes in a What's Changed document (PDF, 2.7MB). Published 8 July 2020. 

Every effort has been made to update all content and documents on our website, but in some cases this has not been possible.  Please take note of any revision notices on the relevant page.

Impact of COVID-19 on IPS data

The travel and tourism statistics published by The Office for National Statistics (ONS) are usually based on the results of the International Passenger Survey (IPS), but the survey was suspended on 16 March 2020 because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. No IPS data was collected for the period when the survey is not operational. The figures published on the VisitBritain website for 2020 (with the exception of Q1 2020 – when the IPS was in operation), are based on administrative sources and modelling. The statistics have been produced to the highest quality possible, but the methods used have not been subject to full review and scrutiny. Assumptions that some previous trends have continued have been made. The results should therefore be viewed with caution. Please see the ONS 2020 data release for more info.

In 2021, the ONS restarted surveying at most ports but were unable to restart interiewing at Dover until Q3 2022. Interviewing at Eurotunnel was also not viable but the ONS started modelling Eurotunnel data from Q4 2021 through to Q2 2022. Please note that interviewing at Eurostar was not affected by Covid-19 restrictions in 2021 or 2022. The ONS restarted IPS interviews at all ports from July 2022. Further information can be found on the ONS website.

Pseudo records for travel across the Irish lander border were also removed from 2021 onwards.