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

Released: 11 October 2012 Download PDF

Key points

  • Overseas residents completed an estimated 3.0 million visits to the UK in August, 5 per cent fewer than in August 2011.
  • Despite the fall in number of visits, UK earnings (which includes any London 2012 tickets bought before and during the visit) from these visits were 9 per cent higher than in August 2011.
  • UK residents made 7.3 million visits abroad in August, similar to the number a year earlier.
  • The London 2012 Olympic Games took place from 27 July to 12 August and the Paralympic Games opened on 29 August.
  • During July and August an estimated 420 thousand of the total visits to the UK were for an Olympics or Paralympics-based purpose and a further 170 thousand involved attendance at a ticketed event.

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 conducted by ONS.

  • The sample profile and responses are calibrated to international passenger traffic for the reporting period. BAA have reported a 2 per cent fall in traffic through their airports in August 2012 as outlined in this press release.

  • Estimates are based on interviews conducted when passengers end their visit. Therefore any visits commencing in August but not completed until September or later are not included in the estimates in this release.

  • Estimates are subject to sampling error, and confidence intervals are provided to help readers interpret the estimates (see background note 4).

London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics

  • The London 2012 Olympic Games took place from 27 July to 12 August. The London 2012 Paralympic Games opened on 29 August and closed on 9 September.

  • As outlined in ONS's Special events policy, it is not possible to make an estimate of the full effect of the Olympics and Paralympics on total visits to the UK because other factors may have influenced visit patterns.

  • However, it has been possible to produce estimates of number of visits to the UK that were associated with the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics. This is because ONS expanded questionnaire coverage of the International Passenger Survey in 2012 and expanded sample coverage (58.2 Kb Pdf) in the first half of August.

  • During July and August an estimated 420 thousand of the overseas residents who visited the UK stated that their main purpose of visit was related to the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympic Games (participating, working or watching).

  • The majority (260 thousand) of these visits were made by European residents while 80 thousand were by residents of North America and 80 thousand by residents of other countries.

Estimated number of visits to the UK on which main purpose for visit was Olympics-based

Residence Number of visits (thousands)
North America 80
Europe 260
- of which EU27 230
- of which A12 20
- of which EU15 210
Other Countries 80
Total visits 420

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Estimates in this table are for the combined periods July and August 2012.
  2. Estimates are rounded to the nearest 10,000.

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  • An additional 170 thousand visitors to the UK stated that their main purpose for visit was not Olympic-based, but their visit involved attendance at a ticketed Olympics or Paralympics event.

  • Therefore an estimated total of 590 thousand visits were made either for the Olympics or Paralympics, or involved attendance at a ticketed event. 

  • The average amount of money spent by those people who either made their visit for an Olympics or Paralympics purpose or attended a ticketed event was almost twice as much as the average spent among other visitors.

Estimated average spend per visit to the UK

  Average spend per visit (rounded to nearest £10)
Those who visited for an Olympics-based purpose or attended a ticketed event £1,290
Those who didn't visit the UK for an Olympics-based purpose and didn't attend a ticketed event £650

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Estimates in this table are for the combined periods July and August 2012.

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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.

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 traveling 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:

    • overseas residents to the UK, and

    • 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:

    • more accurate data on passenger figures becoming available at the end of each quarter,

    • 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 traveler 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 per cent 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.

    Confidence Intervals relating to Overseas Travel and Tourism estimates in August and July 2012

    August 2012 monthly estimates Estimate Relative 95% Confidence Interval (+/- % the estimate)
    Visits to UK by overseas residents (thousands) 3,030 5.1
    Earnings from visits to UK (£ million) 2,380 10.2
    Visits abroad by UK residents (thousands) 7,260 4.0
    Expenditure on visits abroad (£ million) 4,510 7.7
    July plus August estimates Estimate Relative 95% Confidence Interval (+/- % the estimate)
    Visits to the UK primarily for an Olympics-based purpose (thousands) 420 14.0
    Visits not for the Olympics which involved a visit to a ticketed event (thousands) 170 16.9
    Visits either primarily for an Olympics purpose or attended a ticketed event (thousands) 590 11.6

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

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  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).

    Revisions over the last five years

    Value in the latest period (2012 Q2) Revisions between first publications and estimates three years later
    Averages over the last five years (bias) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    GMAT 7,890 36.5 158.5
    GMAX 14,370 155 304
    GMAZ 4,660 *76.25 *121.75
    GMBB 8,400 *176 *179

    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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. Queens Diamond Jubilee

    As part of the celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee there were changes to bank holidays in May and June 2012. The late May bank holiday moved into June, and there was an additional day's holiday. The change to the holidays counted as a statistical special event in line with ONS's policy on Special Events. Caution should be taken when interpreting the movements in affected outputs that involve May and June 2012.

    Olympics and Paralympics

    The Olympics took place from 27 July to 12 August (with a few events starting on 25 July), and the Paralympics from 29 August to 9 September. For most economic statistics, any direct effect of the Olympics will be mainly seen in August estimates. A few series (such as on international travel and tourism, employment) may have been affected in July, and these estimates have already been published. Affected outputs are listed in the Special Events Calendar. Wider effects, for example if the presence of the Olympics has influenced the number of non-Olympics tourist visits, may of course affect any of the summer months.

    This commentary is intended to help users to interpret the statistics in the light of events. As explained in ONS's Special Events policy, it is not possible to make an estimate of the effect of the Olympics and Paralympics on particular series only on the basis of information collected in those series. More details of how certain series are affected are in an Information Note, and an article explaining how various elements are reflected in the National Accounts was published in July 2012.

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

  10. Next publication: 15 November 2012.

    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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