UNITED KINGDOM

The United Kingdom is among the most frequently visited tourist destinations globally. The country’s economy benefits from tourism as it generates billions of pounds in revenue annually and supports millions of employment opportunities. 

Below you’ll find an overview of key statistics and trends in UK tourism, including inbound and outbound travel, international and domestic tourism, as well as the pandemic’s influence on tourism patterns in the UK.

How many tourists visit the UK each year?

  • 2023 Projections: According to VisitBritain’s latest forecast, the UK is expected to reach 37.5 million overseas visitors in 20231, marking a hopeful rebound from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Peak Years: The highest number of overseas visitors to the UK in one year was in 2017 with 41.1 million visits, followed by 40.9 million in 20192.
  • Pandemic Impact: The year 2020 and 2021 witnessed a significant drop in overseas visits, with only 11.1 million and 6.4 million tourists respectively, due to pandemic restrictions2.
  • Recovery in 2022: The number of overseas visitors in 2022 increased to 31.2 million2, but remained 24% below the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
  • Early 2023: Over 9.9 million overseas residents visited the UK between April and June of 20233.
uk-inbound-visits-annually-graph

How many tourists visited the UK in 2022?

In 2022, the United Kingdom welcomed a total of 31.2 million visits which is nearly five times the number of the previous year (2021) with only 6.3 million visits.3

  • The top five inbound markets for the UK in 2022 included the USA, France, the Republic of Ireland, Germany, and Spain.
  • The United States was still the leading inbound travel market for the UK in 2022 with approximately 4.6 million visits (14.7% of total overseas visits in 2022). 
uk-inbound-visitors-by-year

What are the reasons people visit the UK?

People visit the UK for a variety of reasons, with the top three being holidays, visiting friends or relatives, and business.

  • Holidays: Holidays are the primary reason for visiting the UK, accounting for 39% of all visits in 2022, with a total of 12.1 million holiday visits3
  • Visiting Friends or Relatives: The second most common reason is to visit friends or relatives, with 11.8 million visits in 2022, more than twice as many as those for business purposes3
  • Business: Business-related visits accounted for 5.1 million trips in 2022, making it the third most common reason3

In 2021, visiting friends and relatives briefly took the lead with 3.5 million to 1.2 million visits for holidays. It was largely influenced by travel restrictions3

Apart from the top three reasons mentioned, there are also miscellaneous visits which include travelling to study, attending sporting events, shopping, health-related reasons, religious purposes, and visits for more than one purpose. 

uk-inbound-visitors-purpose-of-visits-annually-graph
uk-inbound-visitors-expenditure-2022-purpose-of-visits

How much do overseas visitors spend in the UK?

Overseas visitors spent more on their trips to the UK in 2022 and 2023, after a sharp decline in past years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Peak Years: VisitBritain forecasts further growth in inbound tourism expenditure in 2023, expected to reach £30.9 billion1, surpassing the 2019 peak of £28.4 billion3.
  • Pandemic Impact: International spending in the UK dropped from £28.4 billion in 2019 to £6.21 billion in 2020 and £5.6 billion in 2021 but increased more than four times in 2022 to  £26.5 billion.3
  • Top spenders: Tourists from the USA were still the biggest spenders when visiting the UK in 2022, forking out £5.96 billion, over double the next biggest spenders, tourists from France (£1.58 billion). Followed by Germany (£1.39 billion), Australia (£1.12 billion), and Spain (£1.06 billion).3
uk-inbound-expenditure-annually-graph
uk-inbound-visitors-2022-top-spending-country

Which country visits the UK the most?

  • In 2019, before the pandemic, the US was the primary source of visits to the UK (4.5 million), followed by France (3.6 million), Germany (3.2 million), Ireland (2.9 million) and Spain (2.3 million).3
  • However, in 2021 (during the pandemic),  residents from Ireland led the way with a total of 0.71 million visits, closely followed by France with 0.68 million visits, and the USA ranked third with 0.66 million visits.3  
  • In 2022, after the pandemic, the US bounced back to the top spot with 4.59 million visits to the UK, followed by France (2.83 million), Ireland (2.51 million), Germany (2.23 million) and Spain (2.01 million).3
uk-inbound-visitors-2019-2022-top-visiting-country-graph
uk-inbound-visitors-2022-top-visiting-country

What are the most popular cities visited in the UK?

The top five most popular destinations in the UK for overseas visitors are London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool.

  • London: It’s no surprise that London remains a top choice for tourists in 2022, with 16.1 million international visitors. However, this is somewhat lower than the 21.7 million visits in 2019 before the pandemic.3
    • The Natural History Museum, British Museum, Tate Modern, Southbank Centre, and The National Gallery are the five key attractions for visitors in London.4
  • Edinburgh: Coming in at second place with 1.80 million international visitors in 2022 (lower than the 2.2 million visitors of 2019), Edinburgh continues to attract visitors, despite a large gap compared to London.3
  • Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool: Following the Scottish capital, the next most popular destinations to visit are Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool, each of these cities averaging 1.2 million visitors.3
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uk-inbound-visitors-2022-top-destination-by-spends

International vs Domestic Tourism Statistics

  • In 2017, overseas residents made 41.1 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion on their trips. UK residents made 1.80 billion domestic day visits within Great Britain, spending approximately £62.45 billion on their trips5
  • In 2018, overseas residents made 40.3 million visits to the UK, spending £26.5 billion on their trips. UK residents made 1.43 billion domestic day visits within England, spending approximately £53.04 billion on their trips5
  • In 2019, overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion on their trips. UK residents made 1.65 billion domestic day visits within Great Britain, spending approximately £90 billion on their trips5.
  • In 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, no data is available for April – December of 2020 as the IPS was suspended and the only data available is modeled. 
  • In 2021, overseas residents made 6.4 million visits to the UK, spending £5.6 billion on their trips. UK residents made 624 million domestic day visits within Great Britain (a record from April to December), spending £51.4 billion on their trips5
  • In 2022, overseas residents made 31.2 million visits to the UK, spending £26.5 billion on their trips. While UK residents made 1.1 billion domestic day visits within Great Britain, spending approximately £45 billion on their trips5.
    • There were 945 million Tourism Day Visits to England (87%), 95 million to Scotland (9%), and 62 million to Wales (6%).
uk-inbound-vs-domestic-tourism-2022-top-regions-by-spend

Pre-Pandemic:

  • International tourism peaked in 2017 with 41.1 million visitors (compared to 40.9 million visitors in 2019)2, while domestic day trips within Great Britain in 2019 still hold the record with 1.65 billion visits5
  • In 2019, international tourists spent £28.5 billion2, and domestic tourist spending amounted to nearly £92 billion5.

Pandemic Impact:

  • The total international and domestic travel and spending in the UK fell dramatically due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Tourism in the UK was significantly limited between March 2020 and March 2021, resulting in a lack of data collection for that period.
  • Domestic tourist spending dropped to £34 billion in 2020 (nearly 64% from 2019)5.
  • In 2021 (April to December), 624 million Tourism Day Visits in Great Britain were made by British residents and spent £24.9 billion5.

Domestic Tourism 2022 – 2023: 

  • Between April to December of 2022, 888 million Tourism Day Visits were made by UK residents, a 42% increase from 2021 in the same period5.
    • London (18%), the South East (17%), and the North West (13%) welcomed the highest shares of domestic Tourism Day Visits. 
  • In 2023 (April-June), UK residents took 294 million domestic travel and spent £12 billion5.
    • Visiting friends or family was still the main reason for their visits (78 million).
    • England had an 87% share of visits (257 million visits) and 85% share of spend (£10.2 billion)
    • Domestic tourism statistics for overnight visits, the Top 5 were  Cornwall (4.0 million), Westminster (3.5 million), Birmingham (2.54 million), Manchester (2.49 million), and Leeds (1.9 million). 
    • Domestic tourism statistics for day visits, the Top 5 were Westminster (41.6 million), Birmingham (19.4 million), Manchester (15.4 million), Leeds (14.9 million), and Liverpool (13.6 million).
uk-inbound-visitors-impact-of-coronavirus-by-visits
uk-inbound-visitors-impact-of-coronavirus-by-spend

How does tourism help the UK economy?

Travel and tourism contribute significantly to the economy of the United Kingdom (UK). They help to generate income, create jobs, and support various industries. 

  • The total contribution of travel and tourism to the UK’s GDP saw an increased of 40% from 2020 to 2023. 
  • In a typical year, the tourism sector contributes at least £106 billion to the economy and supports 3.8 million jobs, many of which are held by young people2. By 2025, tourism is expected to account for 10% of GDP. 
  • In 2022, the combined direct and indirect contributions of travel and tourism to the UK’s GDP were 4.6% lower than in 2019. These industries provided a substantial £237 billion to the country’s GDP in 20222
  • Regional economies across the UK also benefit from tourism. Cities like London which generally sees 30 million tourists annually, while the Highlands of Scotland attracts 6 million visitors each year, generating approximately £1.2 billion and supporting 20,000 jobs5

This sector also helps to promote the UK’s culture, heritage, and diversity to the world, as well as to foster international relations and cooperation.

How many UK residents visit abroad each year?

  • 2023 Projections: UK residents made approximately 23.4 million visits abroad in 2023 (April to June), a 14% increase compared to 2022 (April to June)3.
  • Peak Years: 2019 was recorded as a peak year for international travel of UK residents which made around 93.1 million visits abroad3.
  • Pandemic Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on international travel of UK residents. In 2020 and 2021, there were only approximately 23.8 million and 19.1 million visits abroad recorded respectively for each year, which were 25% and 79% less than the peak in 20193.
  • Recovery in 2022: UK residents saw a recovery in international travel in 2022 as they made a visit abroad of around 71.0 million. However, it was still 9% below the pre-pandemic levels of 20193.
  • Early 2023: In the early part of 2023 (April – June), the largest number of visits abroad by UK residents were made to Europe, with a total of 18.4 million (which represented 8% of total visits abroad). This was an increase of around 12% from the same quarter in 2022 when 16.5 million visits were made.3
uk-outbound-visits-annually-graph

How many UK residents travelled abroad in 2022? 

  • UK residents made 71 million visits abroad in 2022, which was over three times the number of visits made in 2021 (19.1 million).3 
  • Europe remained the top destination for UK residents in 2022, with 56.1 million visits, making up 79% of all international trips. This is still a lot, but it was 23% less than the 72.5 million visits in 2019.3
  • And holidays were still the most popular reason for their travel abroad. There were 45.6 million holiday trips made by UK residents in that year.3

How much do UK residents spend on their visits abroad?

Like the overseas residents’ spending in the UK from 2021 to 2023, the UK residents also spent more on their trips abroad after a sharp decline in past years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • In 2022, they spent £58.5 billion on their visit abroad, marking a significant increase of £43 billion compared to the previous year (£15.5 billion). On average, each UK resident spent around £823 in 2022, indicating a 2% increase from 2021 and a 23% increase from 2019 (£670).3
  • In 2023 (Apr to June), UK residents spent £19.3 billion on their visits abroad, a 14% increase compared to 2022.3
uk-outbound-expenditure-annually-graph

Which country do UK residents visit the most?

When it comes to specific countries, both pre and post-pandemic, Spain and France remained the most popular countries for UK residents to visit abroad with holidays as the most common reason.

  • There were 15.6 million visits to Spain by UK residents in 2022, a decrease of 14% from 20193. France remained the second most visited, with Italy and Greece following in the rankings.
  • In 2023 (Apr to June), UK residents made 23.4 million visits abroad, a 14% increase compared to 2022 (Apr to June)3
uk-outbound-visits-2022-top-overseas-destinations

INBOUND VS. OUTBOUND

  • In 2017, the UK received a record number of 41.1 million visits by overseas visitors, who spent £28.4 billion on their trips. This was an increase of 5% in visits and 11% in spending compared with 2016. 
  • Meanwhile, UK residents made 87.2 million visits abroad, spending £54.4 billion on their trips. This was an increase of 6% in visits and 7% in spending compared with 2016. 
  • In 2018, the UK welcomed 40.3 million overseas visitors, who spent £26.5 billion on their trips. This was a slight decrease of 2% in visits and 7% in spending compared with 2017. 
  • Meanwhile, UK residents made 90.6 million visits abroad, spending £58.1 billion on their trips. This was a decrease of 4% in visits but an increase of 6% in spending compared with 2017.
  • In 2019, the UK welcomed 40.9 million overseas visitors, who spent £28.4 billion on their trips. This was an increase of 1% in visits and 7% in spending compared with 2018. 
  • Meanwhile, UK residents made 93.1 million visits abroad, spending £62.3 billion on their trips. This was an increase of 3% in visits and 7% in spending compared with 2018.

2023

How many tourists visited the UK in 2023?

  • Over 9.9 million overseas residents made visits to the UK in 2023 (Apr to June). This was 1.9 million higher than the 8 million visits from the same quarter of 2022.
  • Projections for 2023 indicate a remarkable increase in inbound visitors, with the UK expecting 37.5 million tourists, which is an increase of 92% compared to 2020. 
  • The top visitor markets of the UK in 2023 are expected to be the USA, France, Germany, Ireland, and Spain. When it comes to UK cities, the most visited by overseas visitors in 2023 are expected to be London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool.

How much do overseas visitors spend in the UK in 2023?

  • Overseas residents spent over £7.9 billion on their visits to the UK in 2023 (Apr to June), an increase of £1.1 billion compared with visits in 2022 (Apr to June).
  • The average spend per visit of overseas residents was £799 in 2023 (from April to June).
  • Inbound visitors are expected to spend £30.9 billion in 2023

How many UK residents travelled abroad in 2023?

  • From April to June of 2023, UK residents made 23.4 million visits abroad. An increase of 3 million compared to the same quarter of 2022 with 20.4 million visits.
  • The most popular destinations for UK residents travelling abroad in 2023 are expected to be Spain, France, USA, Italy, and Germany

How much do UK residents spent on international travel in 2023?

  • UK residents were recorded to spend £19.3 billion on their visits abroad in 2023 (April to June), which was £3.5 billion more than they spent in 2022 (April to June).
  • Holidays remained the most popular reason for overseas residents to travel to the UK and UK residents to travel abroad in 2023.

2022

How many tourists visited the UK in 2022?

  • An estimated 31.2 million overseas residents visited the UK in 2022. This was an increase of 24.9 million visits from the previous year but still a decrease of 24% from 2019 when 40.9 million visits were recorded. 
  • In total, 262.9 million nights were spent in the UK by inbound visitors.
  • Visitors stayed longer in the UK on average in 2022, with 8.4 nights per visit.

How much do overseas visitors spend in the UK in 2022?

  • The spending by overseas visitors in the UK was £26.5 billion in 2022, a decrease of 7% from 2019 but an increase of £20.9 billion from 2021.
  • The average spend per visit was £848 in 2022

How many UK residents travelled abroad in 2022?

  • In 2022, there were an estimated  71 million visits abroad by UK residents, a decrease of 24% from the peak in 2019, and an increase of 51.9 million visits abroad from 2021.

How much do UK residents spend on their visit abroad in 2022?

  • UK residents spent a total of £58.5 billion during their trips abroad in 2022. This was a remarkable increase of £43.0 billion compared to 2021.
  • In 2022, the average spend per visit by UK residents was £823. This amount was not only 2% more than in 2021 but also 23% higher than in 2019.
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uk-inbound-visitors-2022-top-destinations-average-spend-per-visit

2021

How many tourists visited the UK in 2021?

  • The UK received 6.4 million inbound visitors in 2021, a decrease of 43% in visits compared to the modelled number in 2020 as travel continued to be reduced because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

How much do overseas visitors spend in the UK in 2021?

  • Spending £5.6 billion on their visits in 2021, international spending in the UK dropped 9% from the previous year and represented an 80% decrease from 2019.

How many UK residents travelled abroad in 2021?

  • UK residents made 19.1 million visits abroad in 2021, which was a decrease of 20% from a modelled record in 2020, mainly due to the continued travel restrictions.

How much do UK residents spend on their visit abroad in 2021?

  • UK residents spent £15.5 billion on their visits abroad in 2021, marking a 13% increase from 2020.
  • An average of £46 was spent per day, as more visits were to visit friends and family rather than the usual holidays.

2020

How many tourists visited the UK in 2020?

  • The modelled data in 2020 shows that the UK only received around 11.1 million international visitors, a decrease of 73% compared to 2019. 

How much do overseas visitors spend in the UK in 2020?

  • International spending in the UK dropped to £6.21 billion in 2020, showing a £22.28 billion decrease compared to 2019.

How many UK residents travelled abroad in 2020?

  • The UK residents made 23.8 million visits abroad, which was a decrease of 76% in visits from the peak year of 2019.

How much do UK residents spend on their visit abroad in 2020?

  • Modelled data in 2020 indicates that UK residents spent £13.8 billion on their visits abroad, representing a 79% decrease from the spending seen in 2019.
  • Tourism in the UK was limited between March 2020 to March 2021, resulting in a lack of data collection for that period. However, the total inbound and outbound travel and spending in the UK (as measured by modelled data) fell dramatically due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

2019

How many tourists visited the UK in 2019? 

  • In 2019, there were 39.4 million visits to the UK by overseas residents, an increase of 1% or 0.6 million compared with 2018 but still lower than the peak reached in 2017.

How much do overseas visitors spend in the UK in 2019?

  • The spending by overseas visitors in the UK was £28.4 billion in 2019, marking a 7% increase in international spending compared with 2018.

How many UK residents travelled abroad in 2019?

  • In 2019, there were 93.1 million visits abroad by UK residents, an increase of 3% from 2018.

How much do UK residents spend on their visit abroad in 2019?

  • The spending by UK residents abroad amounted to £62.3 billion in 2019, an increase of 7% from 2018.
  • The average spend per visit increased from £642 in 2018 to £670 in 2019.

Statistics by Location

  • London Statistics
  • Scotland Statistics
  • Edinburgh Statistics
  • Glasgow Statistics
  • Wales Statistics
  • Oxford Statistics

References

  1. VisitBritain: Inbound Visits and Spend – Quarterly Data, UK ↩︎
  2. UNWTO: Tourism Statistics – Global and Regional ↩︎
  3. ONS: Inbound and Outbound Tourism, UK ↩︎
  4. ALVA: Visits Made to Key Attractions in the UK ↩︎
  5. VisitBritain: Domestic and Inbound Tourism – UK, Britain, England ↩︎