There were 23.8 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2020, the lowest figure since 1985, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Its latest bulletin on tourism figures showed the scale of the Covid-19 crisis as it said the number of visits in 2020 was 74% fewer than in 2019, when there were 93.1 million visits.
There was an 81% decrease in visits to North America (1.1 million); a 74% fall in visits to European countries (18.7 million); and visits to other countries fell by 73% to 4.1 million.
Using estimates based on past trends, the ONS said about 60% of UK residents’ visits abroad were for holidays.
This meant there were 14.2 million holiday visits abroad in 2020, a 76% decrease on the previous year (Figure 4).
Visiting friends or relatives overseas decreased from 23.5 million in 2019 to 6.9 million visits in 2020. Business trips fell to 2.3 million in 2020 from nine million in 2019.
Estimated spending abroad by UK residents decreased by 78% to £13.8 billion in 2020 when compared with 2019.
The bulletin said: “These large falls are attributable to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, with travel restrictions and reluctance to travel becoming widespread.”
Visitors from overseas coming to the UK fell by similar amounts.
Overseas residents made 11.1 million visits to the UK in 2020; this was 73% fewer than in 2019. Spending by overseas residents fell by 78% to £6.2 billion.
National tourism agency VisitBritain/VisitEngland will bring tourism industry leaders together at its annual review event on Tuesday (May 25) to set out priorities to support the sector to recover.
The ‘hybrid’ virtual and in-person event will discuss to the “rebuilding of a more resilient, sustainable and accessible industry”.
VisitBritain’s latest forecasts show a slow recovery with domestic tourism spending estimated this year at £51.4 billion, just over half of the £91.6 billion in 2019.
Its forecast for inbound tourism spending in the UK this year is £6.2 billion, less than a quarter of the £28.4 billion in 2019.