Foresight| May 2014 3
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Trends in visits to different areas of Britain
The Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey records where visitors from overseas spend their time and their money in Britain. The results are based on the locations that are stayed in overnight, so a distinct health warning is that the survey does not fully reflect where visitors
might travel to and spend money on ‘day trips’ away from the
location of their accommodation. Another point to note is that someone visiting Britain might well stay in more than one area during their trip and as such the tally of visits to constituent parts of the country will sum to more than the number of visits to the country itself. The survey is designed to be statistically robust at the national level and while all major ports of departure are covered by the survey estimates at the sub-national level do need to be treated with some degree of caution. ONS estimates for the 95% confidence interval for the number of visits and visitor spending in London, Rest of England, Scotland and Wales is set out in Table 1. At first sight it may appear strange that although based on a larger sample the estimate for visits to Scotland has a wider confidence interval than that for Wales, but this can be explained by a larger share of visits to Wales than to Scotland seeing a departure through one of the London airports that are subject to more intensive surveying than are regional airports.
Table 1: 95% confidence intervals
95% confidence interval for visits 95% confidence interval for spend
London +/- 2.5%
Rest of England +/- 2.7%
Scotland +/- 10.1%
Wales +/- 8.5%
Chart 1 and Chart 2 plot the estimated number of visits and visitor spending (at 2013 prices) for London, Rest of England, Scotland and Wales for the period 1976-2013. From Chart 1 we can see that 2013 was a record year for London in terms of both visits and spending (in real terms). While recent growth in spending has been rapid it is important to take stock of the fact that spending in London in 2013 was in fact just 6% higher in real terms than the previous best year of 1995. There was healthy growth in the number of visits to Rest of England in 2013 but 2007 still holds the mantle of record year, while for real terms spending the 12% jump in 2013 was insufficient to attain the record levels witnessed back in 2006. Another insight is that London data tends to fluctuate to a greater degree than that for Rest of England, with more marked declines between 1978-81 and 2000-01. Turning to Chart 2 it is clear that Scotland consistently sees between two and three times as many visits from overseas as does Wales. Both nations welcomed more visits in 2013 than in 2012 but the record volume years are 2007 for Scotland and 2006 for Wales. In real terms the amount spent in Scotland in 2013 was 8% shy of the record achieved in 2006 whereas spending in Wales remained 23% lower in real terms than was the case in 2006. Another way to look at the above data is to explore the respective share of visits and spending accounted for by each area. Chart 3 does this for visits and Chart 4 for spending. Note that these shares are for staying visits to the countries of Great Britain so exclude visits and spending accounted for by Northern Ireland and nil night visits. Throughout the past four decades London has consistently
attracted the largest share of visits, but only by a cat’s whisker
in both 2003 and 2008. The split of visits in 2013 was very similar to that seen from the second half of the 1980s and much of the 1990s.
Chart 1: Long-term trends in inbound tourism to London and Rest of England