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Statistical bulletin: Overseas Travel and Tourism, November 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 10 January 2013 Download PDF

Key points

  • The number of visits to the UK by overseas residents returned to growth in November, up 9% compared with November 2011. Visits during January to November 2012 ('2012 to date') were broadly in line with 2011, while earnings from these visits grew 3% in absolute terms.
  • Visits abroad by UK residents rose 1% in November and in 2012 to date were unchanged from 2011. Expenditure abroad in 2012 was 3% higher than in 2011.
  • Holiday visits were subdued. Those to the UK by overseas residents and those abroad by UK residents were both down 2% in 2012 to date. Business visits and those to see friends or relatives were both higher than in 2011.

About the estimates

  • Estimates contained in this bulletin are produced from responses provided by international passengers arriving in and departing from the UK, sampled on the International Passenger Survey (350.4 Kb Pdf) conducted by ONS.

  • The sample profile and responses are calibrated to international passenger traffic for the reporting period. BAA have reported overall passenger numbers are up 3.8% compared with November 2011.

  • Estimates are based on interviews conducted when passengers end their visit. Therefore any visits commencing in the reported month but not completed until later are not included in estimates for the reported month.

  • Spending associated with visits includes anything spent before, during and after the trip.

  • Estimates are subject to sampling error, and confidence intervals are provided to help readers interpret the estimates (see background note 4 and Table 3). Further guidance is provided about the quality of Overseas Travel and Tourism estimates (404.8 Kb Pdf) .

Other Overseas Travel and Tourism releases

More detailed analysis of overseas travel and tourism trends are provided in the publications:

  • Overseas Travel and Tourism Quarterly, latest publication Quarter 3 2012 published 10 January 2013; next release Quarter 4 2012 to be published 11 April 2013. This publication provides more detailed analysis of visits and spending, isolating aspects such as countries of visit, mode of travel used, nationality of visitors, regions of the UK visited.

  • Travel Trends, latest publication Travel Trends 2011 published July 2012, next publication Travel Trends 2012 to be published July 2013. This publication provides more detailed analysis of visits and spending, including analysis by demographics, towns in the UK visited and countries visited by residents of different parts of the UK.

  • TravelPac (1.21 Mb ZIP) is a data set which allows users to conduct their own analysis of quarterly and annual data on key variables. The datasets are provided in SPSS and Excel.

Note that estimates are subject to revision between the Monthly Statistical Bulletin and the Quarterly publication and again when Travel Trends is published. Revisions result from more accurate passenger figures being made available to ONS.

Re-formatted reference tables

As mentioned in the October 2012 Statistical Bulletin, ONS will now publish a simplified set of reference tables to accompany the Monthly Overseas Travel and Tourism Statistical Bulletin. These reference tables replace the old format tables.

With the exception of annual estimates for years 2007 to 2009, it will be possible for users to identify all the information that was provided in the old reference tables. This is facilitated by provision of reference tables in Excel format, which is now the approach adopted by ONS. The annual estimates for the years 2007 to 2009 can be accessed via the ONS Overseas Travel and Tourism quarterly and annual publications which are linked in this bulletin.

This change in reporting style is designed to provide simplicity for data producers and users. This is within an overall objective of increasing clarity through making it quicker for users to access latest information and having better access to quality and background information.

Reference Tables Definitions

Abbreviations used in the tables:

 NA      ...not available

 SA      ...seasonally adjusted

 NSA    ...not seasonally adjusted

 †        ...point of earliest revision

 1        ...estimate (rounded to nearest 10,000 visits or £5 million)

Geographical areas:

  • North America:

Canada (including Greenland and St Pierre et Miquelon), USA (including Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands).

  • Europe:

All countries listed under EU27 plus other central & Eastern Europe, North Cyprus, Gibraltar, Iceland (including Faroe Islands), Norway, Switzerland (including Liechtenstein), Turkey, the former USSR and the states of former Yugoslavia

  • EU15:

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France (including Monaco), Finland, Germany, Greece, Irish Republic, Italy (including San Marino and Vatican City), Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal (including Azores and Madeira), Spain (including Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands and Andorra) and Sweden.

  • EU25:

As for EU15 plus, Cyprus*, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

  • EU27:

As for EU25 plus, Bulgaria and Romania.

  • A12:

All countries included in EU27 but not included in EU15.

*Only the south of Cyprus is a member of the EU but the IPS is unable to separate North and South Cyprus for the period before May 2004 and so all of Cyprus is included in the EU27 section until May 2004. From May 2004, only southern Cyprus is included in the EU27 figures.

Purpose groupings:

Holiday: Holiday/pleasure, to play amateur sport, cruise, Olympics/Paralympics - to watch.

Business: Business, Olympics/Paralympics - to work.

Visit friends or relatives: Visit family, visit friends.

Miscellaneous: Other reasons (including 'Olympics - participate'), or cases where the respondent is not able to give a single purpose as the main reason for visit.

People migrating (to or from the UK) or travelling as crew of aircraft, ships or trains are excluded from analysis in this publication.

Background notes

  1. The estimates contained in this publication focus on travel and tourism with analysis based on visits (for any purpose) of less than 12 months duration by:

    a) overseas residents to the UK, and

    b) UK residents abroad

    Estimates of the number and profile of visits to the UK by overseas residents are drawn from interviews conducted on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) with overseas residents as they leave the UK at the end of their visit. Visits abroad by UK residents are drawn from interviews conducted UK residents as they return to the UK at the end of their visit abroad. In the case of UK residents, if more than one country was visited on a trip, the country recorded as visited in ONS's Overseas Travel and Tourism publications is the country that was visited for the longest period.

    Note that, although data by the International Passenger Survey (IPS) also feeds into the calculation of migration statistics, this report does not provide any information relating to International migration.

  2. Figures for the most recent months are provisional and subject to revision in light of (a) more accurate data on passenger figures becoming available at the end of each quarter and (b) additional passenger data obtained at the end of each year.

  3. The main series are seasonally adjusted. This aids interpretation by identifying seasonal patterns and calendar effects and removing them from the unadjusted data. The resulting figures give a more accurate indication of underlying movements in the series.

  4. The estimates produced from the IPS are subject to sampling errors that result because not every traveller to the UK is interviewed on the survey. Sampling errors are determined both by the sample design and by the sample size - generally speaking, the larger the sample supporting a particular estimate, the proportionately lower its sampling error. The survey sample size is approximately 25,000 per month.

    Accuracy of the estimates is expressed in terms of Confidence intervals. The confidence interval is a range within which the true value of a proportion lies with known probability. For example, the 95% confidence interval represents the range into which there are 19 chances out of 20 that the true figure would fall had all passengers been sampled. This is obtained as +/- 1.96 the standard error.

    Table 3: Confidence Intervals relating to Overseas Travel and Tourism estimates in November 2012

    November 2012 monthly estimates Estimate Relative 95% Confidence Interval (+/- % the estimate)
    Visits to UK by overseas residents (000s) 2,460 8.1
    Earnings from visits to UK (£ million) 1,330 8.1
    Visits abroad by UK residents (000s) 3,370 5.9
    Expenditure on visits abroad (£ million) 1,860 7.0

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Download table


    Confidence intervals for quarterly and annual estimates are provided in the relevant Overseas Travel and Tourism publications published by ONS.

  5. One indication of the reliability of the key indicators in this release can be obtained by monitoring the size of revisions. The table below records the size and pattern of revisions which have occurred over the last five years to the following key seasonally adjusted estimates:

    • The number of visits by overseas residents to the UK (GMAT)

    • The number of visits abroad by UK residents (GMAX)

    • Earnings made from overseas residents in the UK (GMAZ) and

    • Expenditure abroad by UK residents (GMBB) 

    Table 4: Revisions over the last five years

    Revisions between first publications and estimates three years later
    Value in the latest period (2012 Q3) Averages over the last five years (bias) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    GMAT 7,550 24.50 149.50
    GMAX 14,120 160.50 298.50
    GMAZ 5,080 67.25 112.75
    GMBB 8,190 167.50 170.50

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

    Table notes:

    1. Units: GMAT and GMAX in thousands, GMAZ and GMBB in £million.
    2. A statistical test has been applied to find out if the mean revision to each key indicator is statistically different from zero. An asterisk (*) indicates where the mean revision has been significantly different from zero.

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    Spreadsheets giving revisions triangles (real time databases) of estimates for the period illustrated in the table, and calculations behind the averages shown, are available in the data section of this publication.

    Further information on the ONS revisions policy.

  6. Statistical series are affected by special events. However, as explained in ONS's special events policy, it is not possible to make an estimate of the effect of particular events only on the basis of information collected in those series. However, ONS publishes a special events calendar which may help the reader put some context on reported estimates.

    There have been a number of special events in 2012. The Diamond Jubilee celebrations saw changes to the normal pattern of Bank holidays in May and June, and an additional day's holiday in June; all of these changes affected estimates for quarter 2 of 2012, and an article gave more information on how the estimates were compiled over this period. The Olympics took place from 27 July to 12 August 2012 (with a few events starting on 25 July), and the Paralympics from 29 August to 9 September. The direct effect of the Olympics and Paralympics was reflected in the estimates for the months of quarter 3 of 2012. More details of how certain series were expected to be affected were given in an Information Note. A detailed article describing possible effects on GDP and comparing with earlier Olympic Games was published by ONS on 25 October. Wider effects, for example the presence of the Olympics influencing the number of non-Olympics tourist visits, may of course have affected any of the summer months.

    The result of these special events in 2012 has been to introduce additional uncertainty in the interpretation of movements between Q2 and Q3 and between Q3 and Q4. Users should therefore consider all the information available when interpreting the statistics. 

  7. Constituent items in the tables may not add exactly to totals due to rounding.

  8. The information provided to the ONS by respondents is treated as strictly confidential as directed by the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. It is used to produce statistics that will not identify any individuals.

  9. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

  10. Next publication: 14 February 2013

    General IPS queries:

    For general questions about IPS and requests for ad hoc data analysis (a service governed by the ONS Income and Charging policy):

    Tel                 Data Advice Relations Team +44 (0)1633 455678


  11. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Roger Smith +44 (0)1633 455277 Social Surveys
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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