Provisional IPS figures released for 2018

International Passenger Survey IPS Data
International Passenger Survey IPS Data

The provisional IPS data for December 2018 has been released, which also give the preliminary results for 2018 as a whole. Year-on-year growth in visit numbers and spending was seen in December 2018, however preliminary figures for the year showed a 4% decrease in visits to 37.8 million and a 7% drop in spend to £22.7 billion.

Most markets saw a fairly even decline of around 4%, however the non-EU European market declined by 12%, while North America remained static.

Miscellaneous visits saw the largest decline at 16% – this category includes short term study, job seeking, shopping, attending a sports event and more.

Although the pound continued to be low against both the dollar and euro in 2018, the fact that visit numbers and spend both fell suggests ‘good value for money’ is being outweighed by other considerations, such as Brexit uncertainties and the global economic slowdown. It is worth noting however that 2017 was a record-setting year for visits and spend, and the 2018 figures are still ahead of 2016.

The final, revised 2018 results are expected to be published in May.


  • The UK welcomed 2.9 million visits in December 2018, up 9% compared to December 2017.
  • In Q4 2018 there were 9.7 million inbound visits to the UK, up 2% on the same period in 2017.
  • Despite the positive Q4 result, overseas visits to the UK were down 4% compared to 2017 at 37.8 million visits.


  • Spending in December 2018 fell by 8% compared to December 2017 to reach £1.7 billion.
  • Spending in Q4 2018 was on par with the same period in 2017 at just under £5.3 billion.
  • However, declines throughout the earlier part of the year meant overall spend in 2018 fell by 7% to reach £22.7 billion.
  • Spend per visit fell by 4% to £601.


  • Holiday visits were up 14% to a little over 1 million in December 2018, with visits growing 10% to reach 3.4 million in Q4. Despite this strong finish, holiday visits for the year were still down 2% on 2017 at just over 15 million.
  • Visits to Friends & Family (VFR) were up 4% year-on-year to reach 1 million in December 2018, while figures for Q4 2018 were on par with the same period in 2017 at 2.9 million. Overall, VFR visits in 2018 were 3% below the record set in 2017 at 11.1 million visits.
  • Business visits rose by 6% in December 2018, however two months of year-on-year declines saw a 3% decrease in business visits in Q4 2018 at 2.1 million. Business visits for 2018 as a whole were down 3% on 2017 at 8.5 million.
  • Miscellaneous visits are a combination of a wide range of journey purposes, including (but not limited to) short term study, job seeking, shopping, attending a sports event and more. Miscellaneous visits in December 2018 grew 11% compared to December 2017 at 230,000 visits, however declines in the first 8 months of the year meant the Q4 figures are 5% down on 2017 at 670,000, and for 2018 overall fell by 16% to reach 2.6 million.


  • Visits from all EU markets were up 11% in December 2018 compared to December 2017 at just under 2 million. This late surge offset the declines earlier in the quarter, resulting in year-on-year growth of 3% in Q4 2018 at 6.2 million visits. However overall visits from all EU markets in 2018 were down 3% on 2017 at 24.7 million visits.
  • Visits from the EU15 markets followed a similar trend, with 1.6 million visits made in December 2018 – 12% higher than December 2017. Visits from this market were just under 5 million in Q4, up 4% on Q4 2017. Despite the strong end to the year, overall visits from EU15 markets were down 4% in 2018 at 19.9 million.
  • Visits from Other EU markets fluctuated month to month throughout 2018 compared to 2017. While December saw 6% more visits from this market at 380,000, results for Q4 were down 1% on Q4 2017 at 1.2 million, and 1% down for 2018 overall at 4.8 million.
  • Visits from the Rest of Europe in December saw the strongest year-on-year growth of 24% to reach 200,000 visits in December 2018. However declines or flat growth throughout the rest of 2018 meant Q4 saw a 5% decline at 650,000 visits, while results for 2018 overall showed a 12% drop in visits from this market at 2.2 million.
  • Visits from North America in December fell by 18% to 210,000. Strong October results meant visits from this market in Q4 2018 grew 5% to reach 980,000, while for 2018 overall visits from North America were on par with 2017 at 4.7 million.
  • Visits from the Rest of the World saw a 7% increase in December 2018 to reach 450,000, while a 3% year-on-year growth was seen in Q4 for this market. Despite a stronger end to the year, the provisional figures for 2018 still show a 4% decline on 2017 at 6.1 million visits.

The full IPS summary report by VisitBritain can be be downloaded at the link below.