Inbound visitor statistics for Q1, Q2 & Q3 2021 (January - September)
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 three quarters of 2021 (January to September 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 -Q3 2021 is for air passengers only and is not comparable with historical UK total data. The comparisons made below compare January-September 2021 air data to January-September 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)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||YTD 2021 (Jan-Sep)||% change vs. YTD 2019|
|Visits||195,000||277,000||1.3 million||1.8 million||-93%|
|Spend||£248 million||£386 million||£1.2 billion||£1.8 billion||-90%|
|Nights||10.4 million||13.0 million||21.5 million||44.9 million||-76%|
The UK received 1.3 million visits in Q3 2021, 86% below Q3 2019. Year-to-date figures show there were 1.8 million inbound visits to the UK in the first three quarters of 2021 – down 93% compared to the same period in 2019.
Visitors spent £1.2 billion in Q3 2021, down 85% on Q2 2019. The first nine months of 2021 saw £1.8 billion spent by overseas visitors to the UK.
In total, 21.5 million nights were spent in the UK by inbound visitors during Q3 2021, down 76% on Q3 2019. From January to September 2021, 44.9 million nights were spent in the UK, down 76% on the same period in 2019.
The average spend per visit in the first nine months of 2021, amongst those who departed the UK via an airport was £1,003 (vs £765 in 2019).
Visits and spend by journey purpose (air passengers only)
|Journey purpose (visits)||Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar)||Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||YTD 2021 (Jan-Sep)||% change vs. YTD 2019|
|Miscellaneous (excl. study)||29,000||29,000||80,000||138,000||-90%|
|Journey purpose (spend)||Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar)||Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||YTD 2021 (Jan-Sep)||% change vs. YTD 2019|
|Holiday||£10 million||£21 million||£202 million||£33 million||-97%|
|VFR||£130 million||£156 million||£606 million||£892 million||-79%|
|Business||£32 million||£74 million||£160 million||£266 million||-93%|
|Study||£38 million||£91 million||£116 million||£245 million||-72%|
|Miscellaneous (excl. study)||£37 million||£44 million||£66 million||£148 million||-83%|
All journey purposes were a fraction of normal levels in the first three quarters of 2021.
The table above shows the impact that restricted international travel has had on the UK’s inbound holiday visits with just 198,000 visits registered in Q3 2021. The total number of holiday AIR visits to the UK for the first nine months of 2021 was 218,000, down 98% 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 three quarters of 2021, making up 66% of all inbound AIR visits and 50% of AIR spend.
Study visits, traditionally a smaller inbound segment to the UK, were one of the least impacted in the first nine months of 2021 with visits down 88% on two years previous and spend down 72%, contributing £245 million to the UK inbound AIR expenditure.
There were 203,000 business visits who spent £266 million in the first nine months of 2021 with the majority of visits and spend occurring in Q3 2021.
Visits and spend by global region (air passengers only)
|Global region (visits)||Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar)||Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||YTD 2021 (Jan-Sep)||% change vs. YTD 2019|
|Rest of Europe||11,000||26,000||78,000||115,000||-93%|
|Rest of World||104,000||49,000||124,000||224,000||-96%|
|Global region (spend)||Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar)||Q2 2021 (Apr-Jun)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||YTD 2021 (Jan-Sep)||% change vs. YTD 2019|
|Total Europe||£114 million||£190 million||£594 million||£898 million||-87%|
|EU Total||£98 million||£156 million||£514 million||£768 million||-87%|
|EU 15||£62 million||£112 million||£403 million||£577 million||-88%|
|Other EU||£37 million||£43 million||£111 million||£191 million||-83%|
|Rest of Europe||£16 million||£34 million||£80 million||£130 million||-89%|
|North America||£28 million||£60 million||£224 million||£313 million||-91%|
|Rest of World||£105 million||£136 million||£334 million||£576 million||-92%|
Across all regions, AIR visits to the UK were down between 88% and 96% in the first nine months of 2021 when compared to the same period in 2019. AIR spend was down between 83% and 92%.
‘Other EU’ (which consists of Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Romania – amongst others) showed the strongest resilience through 2021 with visits down 88% and spend down 83% during the first three quarters of the year.
Visits from the EU accounted for the 64% of all inbound AIR visits but a smaller 43% of spend during Q1 to Q3 2021.
Whilst North American visits were significantly down, they accounted for 17% of inbound visits and 18% of inbound spend, in line with the first three quarters of 2019.
There were 224,000 visits and £576 million spent by those from the Rest of the World region in the first three quarters of 2021.
Visits and Spend by UK region (air passengers only)
|Region (visits)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||% change vs. Q3 2019|
|Rest of England||672,000||-83%|
|East of England||118,000||-79%|
|Region (spend)||Q3 2021 (Jul-Sep)||% change vs. Q3 2019|
|Rest of England||£525 million||-81%|
|North East||£22 million||-78%|
|North West||£111 million||-74%|
|West Midlands||£86 million||-78%|
|East Midlands||£23 million||-83%|
|East of England||£55 million||-81%|
|South West||£52 million||-87%|
|South East||£124 million||-82%|
|UK Total||£1,152 million||-85%|
The ONS did not publish regional data for Q1 and Q2 2021 due to insuffient data so only Q3 2021 data, above, is available.
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 full year forecast for 2021, published February 16th 2022 was for 21.1m visits and £16.9bn spend in 2022. NB this is for visitors using all modes of transport, not just air. Please visit our forecast page for more information on this forecast and the latest update.
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 IPS results where interviewing had been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found on the ONS website and for Q3 2021 details are on this ONS page.