Holiday visits on the rise according to Q1 2019 IPS data

The provisional International Passenger Survey (IPS) data for Q1 2019 has been published by the Office of National Statistics, showing a 1% year-on-year increase in overseas visits with a notable 9% rise in holiday visits. However, this growth was not reflected in overall visitor spend or the number of nights spent in the UK which were both down 5% year-on-year.


  • 8 million visits were made to the UK in Q1 2019, up 1% on 2018 and the second highest Q1 ever recorded.
  • Visitor spend however fell by 5% to reach £43 billion.
  • A total of 47.7 million nights were spent in the UK by inbound visitors, down 5% on Q1 2018.


  • Holiday visits grew by 9% compared to Q1 2018 to 2.7 million, the highest figure recorded for any Q1. Spending by holiday visitors rose by 12% to £1.8 billion, setting a new record for Q1 holiday spend.
  • VFR (visits to friends and family) dropped by 3% compared to Q1 2018 to 2.5 million. VFR spending fell 18% to reach £1.1 billion.
  • Business visits fell by 1% to 2.1 million, while spending fell 11% to £1.1 billion.
  • Visits for miscellaneous purposes (including study) fell by 6% to 540,000, with spending down 10% to £334 million.


  • Portugal saw the biggest growth in Q1 2019 and set records for both visits and spend, up 70% and 75% respectively to reach 141,000 and £53 million. It should be noted however that the sample size for this market was below 100.
  • Visits from Romania also set a new record with a 33% increase at 294,000, with spending from this market up 19% to reach a record £123 million.
  • Visits from China grew 1% to 69,000 and spending rose 28% to reach a record £123 million, setting a new Q1 record for visits and spend from this market.
  • India and Poland performed well, with both markets seeing double digit percentage growth for both visits and spend. Norway and Switzerland also saw double digit percentage growth in visit numbers, although spending grew at lower rates.
  • Visits from Sweden grew 21% year-on-year to reach a record 179,000, however spending fell by 23% to just £70 million. Similarly, visitor spend also fell from Germany, the Irish Republic, Spain, and the USA despite growth in visit numbers.
  • Conversely, visits from Canada fell by 1%, but spending grew by 62% to reach a record £139 million. Similarly, visits from the UAE were on par with Q1 2018, but spending grew 22% to reach a record £121 million.
  • Australia and Belgium saw the most dramatic declines in visits, down 22% and 23% respectively, with spending from these markets down 28% and 46% respectively.
  • Japan and Denmark also saw double digit percentage drops in both visits and spend, although the sample size for both markets were below 100.
  • Visits from Italy fell by 18% compared to Q1 2018, however spending from this market grew 1% to reach a record £175 million.


  • Visits to London were up 5% year-on-year in Q1 2019, the second highest Q1 for visits to the capital. This is also the third consecutive Q1 where London welcomed more than 4 million visits. The growth matched by a 5% increase in spending, which set a new record at £2.7 billion.
  • Visits to the Rest of England were up 4% to 3.2 million, just short of the Q1 2017 record. However, spending fell 12% from the record setting Q1 2018 to £1.2 billion.
    • North East: visits were down 2% with spending seeing a more dramatic decline of 37%, following a particularly strong Q1 2018
    • North West: visits were down 5% while spending fell 4% year-on-year
    • Yorkshire: visits were down 9% year-on-year while spending fell 23% to £77 million, the weakest Q1 in 3 years
    • West Midlands: visits were up 15% year-on-year to reach a record 558,000. However spending was down 28% following a record Q1 2018
    • East Midlands: visits increased 27% with spending up 2% year-on-year
    • East of England: visits were up 4% compared to Q1 2018, although spending was down slightly by 1%
    • South West: visits were up 7% while spending was on par with Q1 2018
    • South East: visits were down 1%, while spending dropped 10% following a record Q1 2018
  • Scotland saw significant declines in both visits and spending, down 35% to 415,000 visits and 43% to £193 million. These figures follow a record Q1 2018 however, and are more in line with 2016-17 results.
  • Visits to Wales dropped 4% to 147,000, with spend seeing a bigger drop of 23% to reach £51 million.

A full summary report from VisitBritain is available to download at the link below.