General Industry

Britain Sees Biggest Fall In Foreign Visitors Since 2009

By Dave Simpson
Britain Sees Biggest Fall In Foreign Visitors Since 2009

The number of foreigners visiting Britain for tourism or work fell by the most in nearly a decade during the three months to June, showing the country could not sustain the record numbers achieved a year earlier in the wake of 2016's Brexit vote.

The pound's fall after Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 made the country a cheaper holiday destination, boosting visitor numbers in the second and third quarters of 2017 - peak holiday season - to record highs.

However, new data from the Office for National Statistics show Britain has been unable to sustain these gains, with the segment of highly price-sensitive visitors possibly having been exhausted.


Foreign visitor numbers in the three months to June dropped by 7.7%, compared with a year earlier, to 10.038 million, the largest percentage drop since the depths of the global financial crisis in early 2009.

The number of North American visitors fell by 10%, European visitors dropped by 8% and there was a 6% fall in visitors from elsewhere.


Tourism, the most common reason for a visit, was down by 8%, business trips fell by 15% while visits to see friends and family rose by 6%.

Total spending by foreign visitors fell by 10.3% compared with a year earlier to £5.839 billion.

The ONS offered no reasons for the declining numbers.

The number of Britons travelling abroad barely changed at 19.868 million, and their spending held steady at £11.629 billion. More Britons visited North America at the expense of other non-European destinations.

Last year, the United Nations estimated Britain was the world's seventh-biggest international tourist destination by visitor numbers, slipping one spot in the rankings behind Mexico. The most visited country was France.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.