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Outbound travel rises slightly in February

UK residents made 4.1 million visits overseas in February – 1% more than in February 2018 – according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS figures also show that UK residents spent £2.4 billion on those visits, which was 7% down year-on-year.

However, looking at slightly longer-term trends, the ONS figures show that for the period of December 2018 to February 2019, there were 12.4 million visits abroad by UK residents – down 2% year-on-year.

When looking at the reasons for visits, holiday visits decreased by 6% year-on-year to 6.6 million; business visits increased by 5% to 1.5 million; and visits to friends and relatives increased by 2% to 4.1 million.

There were 9.3 million visits to European countries over the three-month period, a decrease of 3% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, there were 2.5 million visits to “other countries” – countries outside North America and Europe – a decrease of 4%.

However, there was an 10% increase in visits to North America, up to 700,000.

For the whole of 2018, the ONS said there were 71.7 million visits overseas by UK residents, a decrease of 1% when compared with 2017.

A breakdown of the outbound figures shows there were 47 million holiday visits abroad by UK residents, 1% more than in 2017 and accounting for almost two-thirds (66%) of visits.

There were 16.7 million visits overseas to visit friends and family in 2018 (5% fewer than in 2017) and 6.6 million business visits (3% fewer than in 2017).

Looking at the inbound market, there were 2.2 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in February 2019 – 7% fewer than in February 2018.

Overseas residents spent £1.2 billion on visits to the UK in February 2019, 5% down year-on-year.

James Schofield, head of food, drink and leisure at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, commented: “What matters most is how operators adapt to the more structural changes in holidaymakers’ behaviour that we’ve seen over the past couple of years – more last-minute bookings, people taking more but shorter breaks, and a greater demand to explore new regions.

“Those that rely on inbound tourism won’t be panicking just yet – the number of visitors from the EU is climbing again, after falling in 2018, while the trend towards staycations means that British tourists are often offsetting the fall in demand from overseas.”

More: Millennials drive demand for staycations

Visitor trends suggest holidaymakers are booking later

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