Preliminary 2018 figures from the International Passenger Survey show that inbound visitor numbers were down by 4 per cent last year while spending was down by £1.7billion (7 per cent).
The IPS, produced by the Office for National Statistics, reports that while visitor numbers were down by 2-3 per cent for the main categories of Holiday, Business and VFR travel, a significant decline of 16 per cent was seen in the Miscellaneous category (which includes short-term students).
In terms of where visitors are coming from, there was an even decline of around 4 per cent from most markets, although the North American market was static and the Non-EU European market declined by 12 per cent.
The Tourism Alliance describes the figures as particularly disappointing considering that the pound remained historically low against both the US dollar and the euro: “Usually with the state of the pound you would expect revenue to have increased by about 4-5 per cent – the 7 per cent drop therefore indicates that other factors are involved.
“While it can be argued that concerns over Brexit were impacting visitor numbers from Europe, that the drop in visitor numbers in Europe was mirrored by most other markets suggests that some other factor was at play such as the global economic slowdown and the trade war between the US and China/Europe.”
Expenditure by UK residents taking overseas trips, however, increased by 2.2 per cent in 2018, which indicates that despite the uncertainty, people are still willing to spend on holidays.