The number of visits overseas by UK residents rose by 4% year-on-year – but their spending fell 7% to just under £3 billion.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, almost 4.8 million headed overseas in March.

The longer-term trend for outbound travel remains slightly up for January-March, which saw 13.4 million UK residents heading overseas – up 1% year-on-year.

However, when considering the reasons for overseas trips in January-March, holidays decreased by 2% year-on-year to 7.4 million; business trips decreased by 2% to 1.6 million; and visits to friends and relatives increased by 9% to 4.1 million.

James Schofield, head of food, drink and leisure at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “As we head into the critical peak holiday period, it’s important that travel businesses don’t relax in the hope that rising consumer spending will continue to aid growth.

“Instead they should focus on the more structural and potentially long-lasting changes in holidaymakers’ behaviour such as the increase in last-minute bookings and the greater demand to explore new regions, whether at home or overseas.”

Meanwhile, looking at the inbound market, there were 2.9 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in March 2019, down 2% year-on-year. Spending was down 8% to £1.6 billion.

However, there was better news for the UK’s domestic and inbound tourism market today as prime minister Theresa May announced a tourism sector deal.

It will see the development of a tourism data hub, allowing businesses to better target overseas visitors.

The new deal will also support the creation of an additional 10,000 apprenticeships in tourism and hospitality, and a commitment to build an additional 130,000 hotel rooms.

MoreUpdated: First UK tourism sector deal welcomed as a ‘game-changer’

Outbound travel rises slightly in February