Table of Contents

Methodology

This work was carried out through the Osint (Open Source INTelligence) techniques aimed at finding and analyzing useful information for the purposes of the research.

The analysis through open sources consists in the application of analytical methodologies for the collection, processing and analysis of information. The ultimate goal is to transform what is apparently a confused set of disconnected data, facts and news into exploitable knowledge, thus offering a context consistent with the objective of this report.

Some of the Osint sources include:

  • Scientific and technical commercial databases;
  • Official and unofficial data of institutional bodies;
  • Information from professional and academic sources;
  • Search engines, used both with Boolean operators and with advanced operators;
  • Meta-browsers;
  • Software for the analysis of the social graph;
  • Software for the analysis of metadata and geolocation;
  • Social network;
  • Domain intelligence tools;
  • Network analysis;
  • Newspapers and magazines, institutional publications.

Given the consistency of the information to be compared and considering any cases of harmony, we inform you that the processing may present limited cases of inaccuracies.

Market Research

The base year for data collection was 2019, due to the extraordinary impact of Covid-19 on the tourism and travel industry. However, for completeness, some of the trends that have arisen during the pandemic are also reported.

Overall, the total contribution of the travel industry to the GDP in the UK amounted to 89.6 billion pounds in 2020. While it peaked at nearly 238 billion British pounds in 2019, it decreased sharply over the previous year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During and prior to the pandemic, travel spending in the UK was dominated by leisure spending, which increased in 2020 as business spending declined.

Current estimates suggest that the number of overseas tourist visits to the UK dropped by 73 percent, going from nearly 40.9 million in 2019 to 11.1 million in 2020. As forecast, the number of overseas visits to the UK is predicted to decline further to 7.4 million in 2021. Compared with the previous years, 37.9 million tourists visited the UK in 2018, but the all-time high was reached with 39.2 million in 2017.

Key Data

  • In 2020, the number of inbound visits that the UK received was 11.1 million, a decrease of 73% compared to visits in 2019.
  • In the Q-1 of 2020 the majority of visits to the UK took place. Compared to 2019, visits in Q1 were down 16%, Q2 96%, Q3 80% and Q4 87%.
  • In 2020, inbound visitors to the UK spent 78% less than in 2019 (6.2 billion pounds).
  • The quantitative loss between 2019 and 2020 amounts to 31.0 million visits and 24.1 billion pounds spending.
  • Before Covid-19, the majority (81%) of UK trips were in England (99 million) Scotland (11%) and Wales (9%).
  • The average trip duration in the UK is 3.0 nights. England trips are shortest in duration at 2.9 nights, Scotland average 3.4 nights and Wales last 3.3 nights.
  • Across the UK as a whole, there was an average spending of 201 pound per tourism trip.
  • In 2019, spend per night was similar on trips to England and Scotland at 67 pound and 69 pound respectively, with spend per  night in Wales being lower, at 57 pound.
  • The tourism industry is responsible for over 3 million jobs, making up 9.6% of all UK jobs.

UK Tourism Statistics and Trends Infographic

You can read more UK tourism statistics below.

Tourism Trips

  • 99 million of trips taken during 2019 were to England. Scotland received 13.8 million trips, while there were 10.7 million trips in Wales.
  • The average trip duration in the UK is 3.0 nights.
  • Trips to England are shortest in duration at 2.9 nights. Trips to Scotland on average last 3.4 nights and to Wales last 3.3 nights.
  • 87% of trips taken by English residents were taken in England, with trips to Scotland  and Wales making up 6% and 8% respectively.
  • 65% of domestic trips taken by Scottish residents were in Scotland, with 34% of trips to England and 1% to Wales.
  • Welsh residents took 62% of trips in England, compared to 35% in Wales and 3% in Scotland.
  • In 2018, 37.9 million people visited the UK from overseas.
  • Inbound visitors are still the fastest-growing tourism sector.
  • International visitors forecast to grow by over 6% a year in comparison with domestic visitors at just over 3%.

Spending

  • Across the UK as a whole, there was an average spend of 201 pound per tourism trip. Scotland had the highest average spend, at 232 pound per trip, reflecting higher amounts spent on transport and accommodation.
  • On average, Scotland has the highest spend per trip, at 232 pound, compared to England (196 pound) and Wales (187 pound).
  • In 2019, spend per night was similar on trips to England and Scotland at 67 pound and 69 pound respectively, with spend per  night in Wales being lower, at 57 pound.
  • In July 2019, overseas tourists spent 2.9 billion pound.
  • In 2018, 7.3 billion pounds was spent by overseas tourists, decreasing by 3% from the previous year.
  • In 2017, 31.93 billion pound was spent by tourists in the UK.
  • Taking into account all international tourist receipts, the UK accounted for 3.7% in 2017.
  • In July 2019 alone, 2.9 billion pounds was spent here by overseas residents, demonstrating how substantial tourism is and was to the economy. 
  • Domestic tourism in the UK remains the biggest component of tourist spending
  • Spend on holidays is relatively equally distributed between short trips (1-3 nights) and longer trips (4+ nights) in Scotland and Wales (around 40% of spend on each).  Whereas in England 30% of spend is on holiday trips of four nights or longer.
  • Holiday and business trips tend to be more expensive than trips to visit friends or relatives, because VFR trips generally have no accommodation costs.
  • London collected 54% of all inbound visitor spending.

Purpose of travel

  • Holiday trips make up the greatest proportion of trips, with most being shorter trips of 1-3 nights in duration (51% of overnight trips to England, 48% to Scotland and 54% to Wales).
  • In Wales the proportion of total holiday trips (including VFR-Holidays) is notably higher than for England and Scotland (84% compared to 72% and 76% respectively).
  • Longer holiday trips (4+ nights) are more common in Wales (29% of trips taken) and Scotland (28%), compared to 21% in England.
  • Trips for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives (VFR) are most common in England, where 36% of trips were taken for this reason compared to 29% in Scotland or Wales.
  • Business trips are more common in England (14%) and Scotland (12%) than they are in Wales (7%)
  • 80% and 86% respectively of bednights in Scotland and Wales are for holiday.
  • In the UK in general, 15.1 million of tourists visited for a holiday in 2019.
  • In 2019, 31.4% of trips (11.8 million) were made to see friends or relatives.
  • Business trips were 8.4 million in 2019
  • 2.6 million trips were for other reasons.
  • During April-June 2019, 4.3 million visited for a holiday,
  • 2.1 million traveled for business and 2.8 million traveled to visit family and friends.
  • 77% of inbound visits were repeat visits.
  • Those visiting for holidays reached a new record in June 2019 with 1.6 million inbound holiday visits (up 18%).
  • In only June 2019, business visits increased to 24% (800,000).

Accommodation

  • In all three nations the most common type of commercial accommodation is Hotel/motel and the next most common type of commercial accommodation is Caravan/Camping.
  • In England and Wales there were more trips that involved staying in a friend’s home, relative’s home, second home or timeshare than another type, but in Scotland there were more trips utilising hotels or motels.
  • In England around 36% of trips involved overnight stays in hotels/motels and a similar proportion (37%) of trips involved staying with friends, relatives or in a timeshare/second home. 
  • The next most commonly used accommodation types in England are caravan or camping (10%) and other types of self-catering (9%). 
  • The most popular type of accommodation on trips to Scotland was hotels/motels (39%), followed by staying with friends, relatives or in a timeshare/second home (30%), with caravan or camping on 13% of trips and other types of self-catering for 10% of trips.
  • On trips to Wales, staying with friends or relatives or in a timeshare/second home was the most commonly used accommodation (27%), followed closely by hotels/ motels (25%) and caravans or camping on 24% of trips.
  • In England more nights were spent staying with friends, relatives or in timeshare/second homes than other types of accommodation, whereas in Scotland there was an equal number of nights in self-catering accommodation.
  • However, for Wales the highest volume of nights were spent in self-catering accommodation, particularly caravan or campsite.
  • In England 38% of nights were spent staying with friends, relatives or in timeshare/second homes, with 25% in hotels/motels, 15% camping or in caravans and 13% in other types of self-catering accommodation.
  • In Scotland the situation was similar, with 31% of nights spent staying with friends, relatives or in timeshare/ second homes,  26% in hotels/motels, 16% camping or in caravans and 15% in other types of self-catering accommodation.
  • In Wales there was a similar proportion of nights spent staying with friends, relatives or in timeshare/second homes (27%) or camping/caravanning (26%).  A further 19% of nights were spent in other types of self-catering accommodation, and 17% in hotels/motels./li>
  • In England around 42% of holidays had overnight stays in hotels or motels, caravan or camping was 20% and other types of self-catering (i.e. excluding caravan & camping) was 16%.  
  • More is spent per trip on those involving commercial accommodation, compared to those staying with friends and relatives.
  • Therefore, in all three countries, the highest spend was on trips involving staying in hotels/motels, and the second highest spend was on trips utilising non caravan and camping self-catering.

Type of place by destination

  • In England and Scotland nearly half of trips (46% and 47% respectively) had a city or large town as the main focus of the visit.
  • For trips taken in Wales the most popular location type was seaside or coastal (43%).
  • In England and Scotland, 37% of bednights were spent on trips where the main type of place visited was a city or large town.
  • In Wales, city or town visits accounted for only 11% of bednights.
  • In Wales the largest number of bednights were spent on trips where the main type of place visited was seaside or coastal (47%) which account for 27% of bednights in England and 18% in Scotland.
  • In England and Scotland almost half of money (47% and 46% respectively) was spent on trips where the main place visited was a city or large town, whereas in Wales this destination type accounted for only 14% of spend.
  • In Wales over half (53%) of holiday trips had the main type of place visited as seaside or coastal.
  • In England the largest proportion of holiday trips had the main type of place visited as a city/large town (33%), or coastal/seaside (32%).
  • In Scotland the largest number of holiday trips have the main place visited as cities or large towns (43%).
  • In England and Wales the largest number of bednights was spent on holiday trips where the main place visited was seaside or coastal (41% and 57% respectively), whereas in Scotland the largest number of holiday bednights were spent on trips to cities or large towns (31%).
  • In Wales over half (55%) of all money spent on holiday trips was where the main place visited was seaside or coastal.
  • In Scotland it was trips to cities/large towns that took the largest share of holiday spend (42%).
  • In England the majority of spend was split between trips where the main place visited was seaside or coastal (33%) or cities/large towns (33%).

How many tourists visit the UK each year?

  • In 2017, according to UNWTO ranking, the UK ranked 7th in the international arrivals league and accounted for 2.8% of global arrivals.
  • In 2017, the UK  had the highest number of visitors in one year (39.2 million). This is almost two-thirds of the population.
  • In 2017, according to UNWTO ranking, the UK ranked 5th in the international tourism earnings league.
  • 37.9 million tourists visited the UK in 2018.
  • In 2018, 3.9 million American tourists visited the UK
  • American spent a collective 3.4 billion pounds in 2018, contributing the most to the travel industry in the UK.
  • The USA, France, and Germany accounted for 27% of all overseas visitors spending. 
  • They also were the top markets in terms of the number of visits to the UK, accounting for 29% of all visits in 2018.
  • In June 2019, visits to the UK for holidays reached a new record with 1.6 million inbound holiday visits (up 18%).
  • In July 2019, 4 million people visited the UK.
  • Repeat holidaymakers  spend more on average per night and stay longer on their visits than first-time visitors.
  • In 2018, 6.9 million European residents visited the UK, the previous year the visitors were 3% more.
  • North American residents visited the UK  18% (1.6 million visits) more than the previous year between April and June 2019.
  • Visits by European residents decreased by 5% (6.8 million visits) and visits from other countries decreased by 5%.

What are the most popular tourist destinations and attractions in the UK?

Top Towns and Cities Visits (000s)
London 19,090
Edinburgh 2,363
Manchester 1,408
Birmingham 1,100
Glasgow 837
Liverpool 803
Bristol 598
Cambridge 547
Oxford 526
Brighton 459

Why do British people travel?

  • Dining in restaurants, shopping and going to the pub were the top three activities in which international tourists participated in during their visit.
  • 10% of every trip includes a visit to the beach. This rises to 33% for those visiting Wales.
  • The most popular outdoor leisure activity is walking in the countryside. This was particularly high in the South West and Scotland (41%).
  • 9% of trips in the UK include a visit to a theatre, this rises to 15% in London.
  • 16% of visitors in the UK are doing sightseeing activities.
  • When visitors are asked the reason for their trip, international travellers choose education over anything else.
  • In fact, 47% of people associate the UK with museums.
  • The most popular attraction in London was The Tate Modern, with 5.9 million visitors in 2018.
  • The second and the third most popular attractions in London were the British Museum (5.8 million) and the National Gallery (5.7 million).
  • Wildlife attractions had a 4% participation rate, especially in the South West, London and Scotland, where the rate increased by 6%.

Sources

  1. KANTAR, The GB Tourist 2019 Annual Report
  2. https://www.statista.com/statistics/598093/travel-and-tourism-gdp-total-contribution-united-kingdom-uk/
  3. https://www.statista.com/topics/3269/travel-and-tourism-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/
  4. https://www.visitbritain.org/visitor-economy-facts
  5. https://www.balppa.org/leisure_industry_resources/visitor_attraction_statistics/