By Daniel Hunter

The UK received 30.8 million visits from overseas residents in 2011, an increase of 3.3 per cent compared with 2010, according to the Travel Trends 2011 report, published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The number of nights spent in the UK by visitors grew by 3.2 per cent. Overseas residents making 12.0 million holiday visits to the UK in 2011, up from 11.7 million in 2011. This was the tenth consecutive year of growth in such visits. Visits for business and friends or relatives both grew in 2011, to 7.2 million and 8.8 million respectively.

Nearly half (15.3 million) of the 30.8 million visits to the UK by overseas residents involved an overnight stay in London. This was an increase of 4.0 per cent compared with 2010. Visits to the rest of England (13.0 million) grew by a smaller 3.4 per cent. Meanwhile, visits to Scotland (2.3 million) and Wales (0.9 million) showed no growth.

There were 3.6 million visits from residents of France in 2011, the highest number from any country. The next highest number of visits came from Germany (2.9 million), followed by USA (2.8 million).

Spending in the UK rose by 6.5 per cent; with visitors from the USA spending an average of £828 per visit to the UK, compared with £433 by European residents. USA residents spent a total of £2.4 billion on visits to the UK in 2011. The next highest spend came from residents of Germany, who spent £1.3 billion.

Although average spend per visit is relatively low when considered across Europe as a whole, residents of some European countries have high average spending. For example, the average amount spent per visit by a resident of Russia was £1,447. There were an estimated 211,000 visits from Russia in 2011, up from 170,000 in 2010 and 137,000 in 2009. Norwegian residents spent the most per day on visits to the UK, £151 compared with an average of £76 across all visits to the UK.

UK residents made 56.8 million visits abroad in 2011, an increase of 2.3 per cent. However, nights and money spent abroad on these visits both fell in 2011, by 2.0 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.

2011 saw a bucking of a trend to longer haul visits abroad by UK residents. Between 2005 and 2010 visits to countries outside of Europe and North America (‘other countries’) had grown, while visits to Europe had fallen. However, in 2011 visits abroad became shorter haul with visits to Europe rising by 3.5 per cent while visits to ‘Other Countries’ fell by 2.6 per cent.

Spain and France were the most visited countries by UK residents, accounting for 34 per cent of visits abroad between them. However, the profile of visits varies according to where in the UK people live. Only 10 per cent of visits abroad by residents of London were to Spain, compared with 21 per cent among people living in the rest of England, 28 per cent of Scotland’s residents and 29 per cent of Wales’s residents.

Residents of London were more likely to travel for business or to see friends or relatives. Nearly a half of their visits abroad were for one of these reasons, compared with less than 30 per cent of residents of the rest of the UK.

When taking holidays, residents of Wales are most likely to book a package (52 per cent of their holidays abroad), compared with over 40 per cent among residents of Scotland and England excluding London and only 24 per cent of holidays taken by residents of London.

London received 15.3 million overnight visits from overseas residents in 2011, with the next most visited town being Edinburgh with 1.3 million visits. Other towns and cities in the top 10 most visited were Manchester (0.9 million visits), Birmingham (0.7 million), Liverpool (0.5 million), Glasgow (0.5 million), Oxford (0.5 million), Bristol (0.4 million), Cambridge (0.4 million) and Leeds (0.3 million).

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