UK residents made 4.5 million visits overseas in January 2019 – 2% fewer than in January 2018, according to figures out today.

However, they spent £2.9 billion while overseas, a rise of 6% year-on-year, said the Office for National Statistics.

Meanwhile, there were 2.6 million visits into the UK by overseas residents in January – up 6% year-on-year – and the spending by these visitors was stable, at £1.5 billion.

James Schofield, head of food, drink and leisure at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, commented: “A rise in the number of visitors into the UK during January will have been a pleasant boost to those that rely on inbound tourism, but it’s no substitute for advance bookings for the peak summer season.

“Uncertainty about travel arrangements and about some traditionally popular destinations has prompted holidaymakers both here in the UK and overseas to book later and later in recent months, meaning the traditional January booking boom has been much quieter this year.

“Although fewer Britons travelled outside the UK in January, this is a traditionally quiet month anyway and there are no signs that holidaymakers are about to cancel their travel plans altogether.

“Indeed, the fact that the number of trips into the UK increased during January suggests the sector is seeing structural changes in consumer behaviour with many overseas tourists – who don’t choose to come to the UK for the weather at any time of year – are choosing to have more but shorter ‘bite-sized’ breaks as well as the traditional two-week summer holiday.

“We expect to see British holidaymakers do the same as the year progresses, with many using some of those shorter breaks to explore new regions – both further afield, such as outside the EU, and closer to home by adding a UK staycation to their main overseas break.”

Looking at the figures over a longer period, for November 2018 to January 2019, there were 12.6 million visits abroad by UK residents – down 2% year-on-year – with spending up 5% to almost £8 billion.

Considering the reasons for visits, holiday visits decreased by 4% year-on-year to 6.7 million and business visits decreased by 5% to 1.4 million, while visits to friends and relatives increased by 2% to 4.2 million.

Meanwhile, there were 8.4 million visits to the UK – up 3% year-on-year – with overseas residents spending £4.8 billion in the UK, a decrease of 1%.