The latest provisional International Passenger Survey results have been released for May 2019, showing continued year-on-year declines in both visit volume and spend for the year to date. Corresponding figures for 2018 were also down compared to 2017 figures, indicating a marked downturn in inbound tourism over the last two years.
The North American market was particularly strong in May, setting a record for inbound visits from this region. The Rest of Europe markets also performed well, showing increasing growth over the first five months of the year. However, visits from core EU markets showed an accelerating decline, which is suggestive of the impact of Brexit on visitors from this region.
- The UK welcomed 3.3 million overseas visits in May 2019, down 6% year-on-year and follows an 8% decline in April.
- In the 3 months to May 2019 visits were down 5% at 9.4 million, while visits for the year to date are down 3% at 14.3 million.
- Overseas visits in the 12 months to May 2019 were 2% behind on the previous year at 37.5 million visits.
- Inbound visitors spent £2.1 billion in May this year, down 1% on May 2018. This follows a 15% year-on-year decline in spending during April.
- Spending from March to May 2019 was 7% behind the same period in 2018 at £5.3 billion.
- With inbound spending down year-on-year in each of the last four months, spending in the year to date was 6% below January – May 2018 at £7.9 billion.
- In the rolling 12 months to May 2019 visitors spent £22.4 billion, down 8% compared to the previous 12-month period.
- Holiday visits fell for the first time this year in May 2019, down 16% compared to May 2018 at 1.3 million, marking the weakest May for holiday visits since 2012. With growth seen earlier in the year, holiday visits are down a milder 6% in the 3 months to May 2019 at 3.8 million, while year-to-date figures are on par with 2018 at 5.4 million. Despite recent declines, holiday visits were up 2% in the rolling 12 months to May 2019, reaching a record 15.1 million.
- VFR (visits to family and friends) figures were up 7% in May to reach 1 million, just short of the 2017 record. However, after declines in each previous month in 2019, VFR visits are down 3% for both the 3-month period to May 2019 at 2.8 million, as well as for the year to date at 4.5 million. VFR figures are also down 3% for the rolling 12 months to May 2019 at 11.6 million.
- Business visits rose 2% in May 2019 to reach 740,000, though this is still well below the record set in 2017. Continued declines over a longer period meant business visits were down 5% for both the 3-month period to May 2019 at 2.2 million, and for the year-to-date at 3.5 million. In each case 2018 results were also down on 2017, and over the rolling 12-month period to May 2019 business visits were down 4% at 8.2 million.
- Miscellaneous journeys (a wide range of journey purposes including – but not limited to – short term study, job seeking, shopping, attending a sports event and more) were down 8% compared to May 2019 at 170,000 visits. These visits were down 3% at 570,000 for the 3 months to May 2019, and down 5% at 910,000 for the year-to-date. An even greater decline was seen over the longer term, with miscellaneous visits down 10% in the 12-months to May 2019 at 2.5 million.
- Visits from all EU markets were down 16% in May 2019 to 2 million – the weakest May for visits from the EU since 2012. Visits from this region were down 8% in the 3 months to May 2019 at 6.3 million, and down 4% at 9.8 million for the year to date, suggesting an accelerating decline over the first five months of the year. Visits from all EU markets were down 2% over the rolling 12-month period to May 2019 at 24.4 million.
- Within the overall EU market, visits from EU15 markets were down 19% year-on-year in May 2019 at 1.6 million, and down 10% between March and May 2019 at just under 5 million. Visits from this market were down 7% for the year-to-date at 7.6 million, and down 4% over a longer period at 19.4 million over the rolling 12-months to May 2019.
- Visits from Other EU markets saw milder declines of 1% year-on-year for the month of May at 440,000. Stronger performances in previous months meant visits from this market were up 4% to reach 1.4 million during the 3 months to May 2019, and up 8% for the year-to-date at 2.1 million. For the 12-months to May 2019 visits were up 3% at just over 5 million, compared to the previous rolling 12 months.
- Visits from the Rest of Europe showed an opposite trend compared to the All EU market, with a 13% year-on-year growth recorded for May 2019, reaching 180,000 visits. Visits were also up 10% year-on-year for this market between March and May 2019 at 600,000, and up 4% for the year-to-date at 850,000. However, over the rolling 12-months to May 2019 visits from the Rest of Europe fell 2% overall to reach 2.3 million.
- Visits from North America was particularly strong in May 2019, with a 31% increase setting a new record at 600,000 visits. Visits from North America were 10% up year-on-year at 1.2 million for the 3-month period to May 2019, and up 7% for the year to date at 1.7 million – both the second highest ever for the respective periods after the records setting 2000. A 2% growth was recorded for the rolling 12-month period to May 2019 to reach 4.8 million visits from this region, just short of the record 4.9 million, again set in 2000.
- Visits from the Rest of the World saw a 2% increase in May 2019 compared to May 2018 at 490,000, just short of a new record. However declines in previous months mean visits from the Rest of the World fell 7% between March and May 2019 to just under 1.2 million, and 6% down for the year-to-date at just under 2 million. Over the longer term, visits from the Rest of the World were tracking 4% down in the rolling 12 months to May 2019 at just over 6 million.
The full summary report from VisitBritain can be downloaded at the link below.