The number of Britons taking overseas holidays returned to its pre-recession level in May according to latest government figures, although this is not the picture for the rest of the year to date.

About 5.14 million UK residents took a trip abroad in May, a level not seen in the month since 2008.

The number of foreign trips increased by 11% to 14.5 million in the three months to the end of May, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, travellers spent less per trip – spending only 7% more than in the same period a year ago.

The royal wedding in April and the relatively good exchange rate for visitors from abroad also spurred a recovery in inbound tourism to the UK.

Overseas tourist numbers rose 10% to 7.8 million in the three months to May 31 compared with the same quarter last year. Spending by visitors rose by 7% to almost £4 billion, according to VisitBritain.

Arrivals from central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia were the highest seen in any May at 390,000. This reflects growth of 22% in the three months to May over the same period in 2010.

The number of visits from North America – the highest inbound spenders to the UK – was up 15% on March-May 2010. Visits from core European Union countries rose 6% year on year.

VisitBritain strategy and communications director Patricia Yates said: “These figures show real signs of growth for British tourism. Britain is recovering its international appeal.”