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Statistical bulletin: Overseas Travel and Tourism - Monthly Release, October 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 13 December 2012 Download PDF

Key points

  • Completed visits to the UK were down 4% and visits abroad were down 2% in October compared with the same month in 2011.
  • October saw Hurricane Sandy in the US and housed only the first part of the autumn school half term holiday which ended in November, later than in recent years.
  • In 2012 to date, the number of visits to the UK is down 1% compared with 2011. The fall has occurred primarily in the period from June to October. However, overall earnings have risen by 3% in 2012.
  • The number of visits abroad by UK residents year to date is in line with 2011 and expenditure associated with these visits is up 4%.
  • UK residents have made fewer long haul trips in 2012 (visits to North America are down 3% and to 'other countries' are down 2%). However, the number of visits to the UK by residents of North America is up 2% compared with 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 unchanged from October 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 4).

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 2 2012 published 11 October 2012; next release Quarter 3 2012 to be published 10 January 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 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

From January 2013 (the Statistical Bulletin relating to November 2012), ONS intends to publish a simplified set of reference tables to accompany the Monthly Overseas Travel and Tourism Statistical Bulletin.

With the exception of annual estimates for years 2007 to 2009, currently provided in Tables 2a, 3a, 4a, 5a and 6a, it will be possible for users to identify all information provided in the current reference tables.

This will be 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 focus on clarity through making it quicker for users to access latest information and having better access to quality and background information.

The re-formatted reference tables are provided in the 'Reference tables' section of this release. We would welcome any comments on this proposed change from users of this publication. Contact details are provided in the 'Statistical contacts' section of this release.

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.

    The model used to produce seasonal adjustment estimates is reviewed by ONS approximately every two years. A review was conducted in late 2009 and the new model was used for the first time to produce the seasonally adjusted estimates used in the December 2009 publication. Since the July 2010 publication, seasonal adjustment analysis has been undertaken using X-12-ARIMA. Details of the seasonal adjustment model can be requested from the IPS team using the statistical contact details listed at the end of these notes.

  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 October 2012

    October 2012 monthly estimates Estimate Relative 95% Confidence Interval (+/- % the estimate)
    Visits to UK by overseas residents (000s) 2,680 5.9
    Earnings from visits to UK (£ million) 1,550 7.0
    Visits abroad by UK residents (000s) 5,090 3.4
    Expenditure on visits abroad (£ million) 2,810 5.2

    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).

    • 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 7,470 24.50 149.50
    GMAX 14,220 160.50 298.50
    GMAZ 4,990 67.25 112.75
    GMBB 8,370 167.50 170.50

    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.

    Download table


    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.

    Please note that all estimates, including revised estimates, are based on a sample survey and are therefore subject to sampling and other sources of error. 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.

  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: 10 January 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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