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Release: Travel Trends, 2012

Released: 19 April 2013


Roger Smith

Social Surveys

Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455277

Categories: Travel and Transport, People and Places, People, Tourism

Frequency of release: Annually

Language: English

Geographical coverage: International

Geographical breakdown: Region

Survey name(s): International Passenger Survey (IPS)

  • 2012 presented an unusual year for planning travel and tourism to and from the UK. It saw the UK host the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June, the London 2012 Olympic Games in July/August and Paralympics in August/September. Other factors in 2012 that might be expected to impact on travel and tourism included the wettest April to June on record in the UK and some strengthening of the pound against the euro from low exchange rates experienced in 2009 to 2011.

  • However, although there was a reduction in visits to the UK in quarter 3 (July to September) and an increase in quarters 1, 2 and 4, visit trends in 2012 displayed a number of similarities to recent years.

  • The number of visits to the UK in 2012 as a whole rose by 0.9% from 2011, whereas visits abroad fell by 0.5%. This is the fourth consecutive year that the gap between outbound visits and inbound visits has narrowed.

  • Earnings from visits to the UK rose by £0.6 billion (3.6%) to £18.6 billion. Expenditure on visits abroad rose by £0.7 billion (2.4%) to £32.4 billion. This resulted in a broadly unchanged deficit to the UK associated with overseas travel and tourism, the figure being £13.8 billion in 2012.

  • Overseas residents made an increased number of overnight visits to London in 2012 compared to 2011, but a reduced number of overnight visits to the rest of England, Scotland and Wales. Earnings on visits to London rose (by 7.0%) whereas those associated with overnight visits to both the rest of England and Scotland fell. This is the third consecutive year that visits and earnings associated with visits to London have grown faster than the average of all visits.

  • Visits to the UK fell in quarter 3 2012, the time of the Olympic Games/Paralympics, whereas visits in each of quarter 1, 2 and 4 increased. Despite the fall in visits in quarter 3, earnings increased by 8.5% in that quarter, as people visiting for the Olympics/Paralympics spent more than the average on their visit.

  • A total of 471,000 overseas residents visited the UK primarily for the Olympics/Paralympics in 2012 and a further 227,000 attended a ticketed event. The 471,000 came primarily from Europe, and were more likely than average to be male, aged 25-34, to have stayed in London and to have travelled via Heathrow. 90% travelled independently rather than on a package tour.

  • There was a continued increase in business visits and those to see friends or relatives in 2012, whereas holiday visits showed no growth either to the UK or abroad.

  • There was also an increase in visits to and from Europe, whereas visits from longer haul destinations to the UK were unchanged from 2011 and visits from the UK to these destinations fell.

  • Visits to the UK from the 'BRIC' countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) increased by 1.7% in total in 2012. Those from China (including Taiwan) rose by 34,000 and from Russia by 16,000, but from India fell by 16,000 and from Brazil fell by 17,000.

  • Visits to Spain by UK residents have grown in both 2011 and 2012, from 10.4 million in 2010 to 11.1 million in 2012, whereas visits to France have fallen (from 9.8 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2012). UK residents have also turned focus away from Egypt in recent years, making 109,000 fewer visits to Egypt in 2012 than in 2011. At the same time they increased their visits to Morocco, Tunisia and other North Africa countries by a similar volume. The number of visits to Egypt has fallen from 749,000 in 2009 to 407,000 in 2012.


Presents the annual estimates of overseas travel and tourism based on interviews conducted with passengers as they enter or leave the UK by the principal air, sea and tunnel routes.
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.