Who says we Brits are not an adventurous lot? Figures just released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)* show that we made 65.7 million visits abroad last year. That’s approximately one trip for every resident in the UK and up 9.4% on 2014.We also spent more than previous years; a total of £3.5 billion – which is 9.8% up on the previous year.
Those visits comprised taking holidays (up 9.4%), visits to friends and family (up 11%) and, of course, business trips (up 5.8%). The number of nights that we spent away from our own beds also climbed, up 10.7% to a record 682.4 million nights. That’s a lot of time spent ‘out of barracks’ as the military would say.
Spain accounted for 13 million of those visits (up 6.1%), or nearly 20% of the total and so remains our most popular overseas destination. OK. So perhaps we’re not as adventurous as we first thought. Or perhaps we just know a good bargain when we see one.
The ONS’s International Passenger Survey doesn’t just record passengers travelling out of the country but those coming in too. For every three Brits heading towards the departure lounge or exit door, one visitor arrived coming the other way. In fact, we welcomed 18.6 million international visitors last year, up from 17.4 million the year before.
And if we Brits all flocked to Spain, so these international visitors did the same thing in London, which attracted a record breaking 31.5 million visitors, up a whopping 20% from five years ago.
Major sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup helped push up these numbers as did the blockbusting exhibitions that our museums and galleries are so good at putting on.
And boy did those visitors spend too. A record £15 billion was rung up in the Capital’s hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions – an increase of 35% compared with 2010.
Despite efforts to ‘disperse’ international visitors around the country, London will, for the foreseeable future, act as an international ‘magnet’. In fact, separate research by independent forecaster Oxford Economics predicts that the Capital will welcome 35.6m visitors by 2020.
No wonder the new Mayor is so keen to see the Underground running an all-night tube service because for some visitors, that’s the only time they’ll get a seat!