Tourism bodies question accuracy of latest ONS figures

VisitBritain and UKinbound have queried figures from the Office of National Statistics, which reported an 8% year-on-year fall in the number of overseas visits from April to June 2018, writes Angie Cronin.

The latest statistics show there were 3.3 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in April 2018 (11% fewer than in April 2017), 3.5 million visits in May 2018 (down 3% year-on-year) and 3.2 million visits in June 2018 (down 9% year-on-year). Over the three-month period, there were 10 million visits to the UK, 8% down year-on-year.

The ONS highlighted the fact that, despite the decrease in overseas visits for three consecutive months, visitor numbers for the corresponding three-month period of 2017 were the highest ever recorded by the survey. However, the ONS has not given any explanation for the fall in overseas visits.

The spending by overseas visitors has also fallen year-on-year, with a 10% fall to £5.8 billion during April-June.

VisitBritain voiced its concerns about the latest ONS report, claiming that there are “some discrepancies with other data”.

Director Patricia Yates said VisitBritain acknowledged there has been a slowing in growth from European markets this year, but added: “The latest International Passenger Survey’s quarterly statistics for our long-haul markets, where the trend overall has been one of rapid growth, shows some discrepancies with other data and booking sources and we are in conversation with the Office for National Statistics about this.”

UKinbound said research carried out among its members is also telling a different story.

Mark McVay, chairman, said: “We know that business for some of our London attraction members has softened this year but one of our recent Business Barometers demonstrated that for 72% of those who responded to our survey, business activity in May and June this year was the same or had increased compared to the same period in 2017.

“Brexit has not appeared to have had a major effect on our members’ businesses to date in terms of visitor numbers but we will of course continue to monitor this closely.”

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