Overseas visits to UK plummeted in 2020: how Covid-19 hit the travel and tourism economies

by Riccardo Trono

The number of overseas visits to the UK fell by 95 per cent from January to June this year as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, according to data revealed by the Office for National Statistics.

Travel to the UK in March, the month when the full-scale lockdown was implemented, numbered 1,720 thousand visits, 48 per cent down on the amount of people entering the country in February and 51 per cent fewer than those recorded in January.

April saw the lowest number of visitors with 95 thousand overseas residents travelling to the UK, a 97% decrease from January. The trend then witnessed a slight resurgence in May and June, rising by 34% and 85% respectively from April.

Visits to UK from overseas Jan-Jun 2020
Riccardo Trono – Yorkshire Voice


Health restrictions impacted heavily on the travel and tourism economies as well, as the money spent in the UK by overseas visitors plummeted by 98 per cent from £2,620 million in January to £60 million inJune.

Again, March marked a dramatic change in trend in the economic scenario, with the £1,020 million spent representing a 61 per cent fall from January and a 56 per cent decrease from the £2,330 million spent in February.

April and May, both recording an income of £79 million, constituted a 97 per cent low from January.

Chart 2 Money spent in UK from overseas visits Jan-Jun 2020
Riccardo Trono – Yorkshire Voice


As for the provenance of overseas visitors to the UK, in the second quarter of the year (April to June) 298 thousand people entered the UK from Europe – that’s 75 per cent of the total visits, whereas 40 thousand visitors came from North America and 60 thousand people travelled from other regions of the world.

Chart 3 Visits to UK from overseas regions Apr-Jun 2020
Riccardo Trono – Yorkshire Voice


Finally, still in the second quarter, 45 per cent of overseas residents travelled to the UK for holidays, the most popular reason for entering the country alongside visiting friends or relatives standing at 28 per cent. Business and miscellaneous reasons came last, accounting for 21 per cent and 6 per cent respectively of the total 398 thousand visits.

Chart 4 Reasons for visiting UK Apr-Jun 2020
Riccardo Trono – Yorkshire Voice

Date sources may be found here:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/bulletins/overseastravelandtourism/apriltojune2020

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/bulletins/overseastravelandtourism/januaryfebruaryandmarch2020provisionalresults

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