UK sees worrying drop in numbers of overseas visitors

The number of overseas visitors to the UK dropped in 2018, despite favourable exchange rates and record-breaking temperatures.

The latest 'Travel Trends' report released by the Office of National Statistics today has revealed that there were a total of 37.9 million visits made by overseas residents to the UK in 2018, 3 per cent down on 2017. 

The amount of money spent by overseas visitors also fell by 7 per cent to £22.9bn.

Meanwhile, UK residents made 71.7 million visits overseas, down 1 per cent on the previous year, although spending rose by 1 per cent to £45.4bn.

Commenting on the new figures, Ian Bell, head of travel and tourism at RSM said:

'It's really disappointing to see a drop in the number of visitors coming to the UK – and most worrying for hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers is the decline in spending. 

'The UK benefitted from a post-Olympic boom in the years after 2012, so it would be really disappointing if this were to mark the start of a downward trend in the appeal of the UK as a tourist destination. 

'The UK tourist industry will have to work hard to fight for its share of the tourist market but there are clouds on the horizon. Following Edinburgh's lead, a number of local authorities appear to be pushing for the introduction of local tourist taxes. If and when these are introduced, they could take the shine off a number of popular destinations.

'Given last year's heatwave and the pound's weakness, it's probably less surprising that there was a drop in the numbers of UK residents travelling overseas. This year we could well see a further decline as a result of Brexit uncertainty, but the staycationers could provide a welcome boost for the UK economy.'