Overseas trips by UK residents in the three months to May 2009 dropped 2% while inbound visits from overseas holidaymakers rose 3%, according to new statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS’s Overseas Travel and Tourism report, based on figures from the International Passenger Survey, showed the number of ex-UK visits, seasonally adjusted for the three months to May, dropped 2% to 15.3 million compared with the three previous months – a fall of 14% when compared with the same period in 2008.

The associated spending fell 8% to £7.9 billion for the three months compared to the prior three months.

For the same March-May period, the seasonally adjusted number of visits to the UK increased 3% to 7.5 million compared with the previous three months. However, the figures represent a drop of 10% on the same three months in 2008. The associated spending by overseas residents on visits to the UK in the three months increased 6% to £4.1 billion.

The figures bear out a trend for UK holidaymakers to avoid eurozone countries this year because of the poor exchange rate, resulting in a well-reported boom in domestic travel, and a move by overseas residents to capitalise on a good exchange rate with the pound.

However, total visits to the UK by overseas residents over the 12 months up to May 2009, not seasonally adjusted, fell by 8% – a drop of 2.8 million – from 33.2 million to 30.4 million, when compared with the previous year. The drop coincides with the start of the global recession.

The largest drop in inbound visits to the UK for the year was from North America, which fell 20% to 3.5 million. Meanwhile, visits by European residents dropped 6% to 22.7 million, and visits from other parts of the world declined 10% to 4.2 million.

The number of visits abroad by UK residents also fell by 8% for the 12 months to May compared with the previous 12 months. In figures, not seasonally adjusted, visits dropped from 70.6 million to 64.6 million. Visits by UK residents to Europe decreased 9% to 51.2 million, to North America by 10% to 4.2 million, and to other parts of the world by 7% to 9.2 million.

In the same 12 months, spending by overseas residents on UK visits dropped 1% to £16.1 billion and expenditure by UK residents on overseas trips fell 4% to £34.7 billion. This resulted in a deficit to the UK of £18.6 billion compared with £19.7 billion during the same period to May 2008.