Brexit may have dampened visitor figures to the UK from some markets, but others are taking advantage of cheaper hotels and increased flights.
If any year was going to be difficult to predict for the UK tourism industry, 2019 was it, with Brexit turmoil continuing as WTM London commences.
Any negative perception about the UK’s visitor welcome has been overridden in some – but not all – markets by the weakness of the pound and increased airlift. The picture is mixed, as data from VisitBritain and UKinbound reveals.
VisitBritain’s figures, derived from the government’s International Passenger Survey, include holiday arrivals, business travellers and those visiting friends and relatives (VFR). Data for the January-May period shows visits to the UK are down 3% year-on-year to 14.3 million, with May down 6% to 3.3 million following an 8% fall in April – just after the UK’s original Brexit date. Looking at the rolling 12-month picture, visits to the UK were down 2% at 37.5 million.
Similarly, visitor spend for the first five months of 2019 fell 6% to £7.9 billion, while for the rolling 12-month period, overseas visitors spent £22.4 billion, down 8%. Visits for holiday decreased year-on-year for the first time in 2019 in May, down 16%, making it the weakest May since 2012, however year-to-date figures match 2018 at 5.4 million and the rolling 12 months is up 2% to a record 15.1 million holidaymakers.
Added to this is VFR, up 7% in May to one million, just short of 2017’s record, although this is down 3% in the rolling 12 months to 11.6 million. Business visits fell 4% in the rolling 12-month period.