UK had a tourism deficit of £33.9 billion in 2019, with 88% of that (ie. about £30.04 billion) due to air travel
The current clampdown on international air travel has helped the UK Balance of Payments, by reducing the country’s trade deficit by almost £3 billion per month. This is from the “tourism deficit”, which is the amount by which the amount spent by British people travelling and spending abroad, exceeds the amount spent by visitors to the UK. Figures released on 22nd May by the government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK posted a record trade deficit of £33.9 billion on international tourism in 2019. This is more than £2 billion above the 2018 figure which was itself a record tourism trade deficit. The ONS data shows 88.2% of the tourism deficit was due to air travel. UK residents made 93.1 million visits abroad in 2019, spending a total of £62.3 billion overseas. By contrast, overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion. The net result was a £33.9 billion deficit in the UK Balance of Payments. Just 9.0 million of the 93.1 million overseas visits (9.7%) by UK residents in 2019 were for business purposes. The lack of money leaving the UK comes at the expense of countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy losing billions of €s in revenue from UK tourists.
AIR TRAVEL CLAMPDOWN PRODUCES A SILVER LINING
25.5.2020 (Stop Stansted Expansion)
The current clampdown on international air travel has produced a silver lining for the UK Balance of Payments in the form of a reduction in the country’s trade deficit by an estimated £3 billion per month.
Figures published last week [Friday 22 May] by the Office of National Statistics (‘ONS’) show that the UK posted a record trade deficit of £33.9 billion on international tourism in 2019. This is more than £2 billion above the 2018 figure which was itself a record tourism trade deficit.
UK residents made 93.1 million visits abroad last year, spending a total of £62.3 billion overseas whilst overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion.
The net result was a £33.9 billion deficit in the UK Balance of Payments.
Just 9.0 million of the 93.1 million overseas visits by UK residents in 2019 were for business purposes.
Brian Ross, Deputy Chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion (‘SSE’) commented: “The current pandemic has an endless list of negative impacts upon peoples’ lives and livelihoods but the impact on international tourism is undeniably good news for the Balance of Payments. This is, of course, at the expense of countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy who are losing billions of euros in revenue from UK tourists.”
It remains unclear as to how long it will take before there is a meaningful resumption of international air travel and overseas tourism. Restoring consumer confidence will be particularly challenging.
New guidelines published last week [20 May] by the European Aviation Safety Agency (‘EASA’) state that passengers will need particular reassurance that filtered air on airplanes is safe. However, there is still no guidance from EASA on the testing and certification of aircraft air conditioning to measure its effectiveness in filtering out particles as small as bacteria and viruses.
Brian Ross concluded: “The general expectation is that it will take several years to restore consumer confidence in international air travel and overseas tourism. The upside is that the UK Balance of Payments account is already seeing the benefits and the UK domestic tourism economy should benefit once we can all safely get moving again within the UK.”
- The ONS ‘Travel’ Trends’ information for 2019 was published on 22 May 2020 and can be found at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/
peoplepopulationandcommunity/ leisureandtourism/articles/ traveltrends/2019 There is a useful summary of the UK’s 2019 trade performance in a House of Commons Library report dated 13 May 2020 at https://commonslibrary. parliament.uk/research- briefings/sn02815/
- The ONS figures include expenditure in the course of visits by sea and tunnel, as well as by air, but air accounts for 88% of the total. Cross-border travel in Ireland is excluded from the ONS data.
- In 2019 UK exports amounted to £699 billion compared to imports of £725 billion resulting in a trade deficit of £26 billion with a £130 billion deficit on goods offset by a £104 billion surplus on services. Without international tourism, the UK would have posted an overall trade surplus of £7 billion.
- The new EASA guidelines, “Covid-19 Health Safety Protocol” were published on 20 May 2020 and can be found at: https://www.eraa.org/sites/
default/files/easa-ecdc_covid- 19_operational_guidelines_for_ management_of_passengers_ final.pdf
FURTHER INFORMATION AND COMMENT
- Brian Ross, SSE Deputy Chairman: 01279 814961; (M) 07850 937143; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mike Young, SSE Economics Team: 01799 599089; (M) 07486 592334; reynoldson-young@aldridges.
- SSE Campaign Office: 01279 870558; email@example.com
The Travel Trends 2018 data is at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/articles/traveltrends/2018
and the Travel Trends 2019 data is at
The ONS have changed the methodology between 2018 and 2019, as they say they were not including all the returning British passengers, so their UK numbers were too low. The inaccuracy of the overseas passengers seems to be lower.
But not only does this give a tourism deficit of £33.9 for 2019, it also indicates the tourism deficit was FAR higher than declared in earlier years.
Below are the key data for both years and.
Text in red is from the 2019 data.
Text in green is estimated by AirportWatch.
1. Main points (seelink )
There were fewer overseas residents’ visits to the UK in 2018 than in 2017 and also a fall in the number of visits abroad by UK residents.
A total of 37.9 million visits were made by overseas residents to the UK in 2018, [40.9 million visits to the UK in 2019], which was 3% fewer than in 2017.
There were 71.7 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2018, a decrease of 1% when compared with 2017. [93.1 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2019, an increase of 3% compared with 2018.] – so the 71.7 m figure for 2018 should be, with the new methodology, about 90 million
UK residents spent £45.4 billion on visits overseas in 2018, which was 1% more than in 2017. [UK residents spent £62.3 billion on visits overseas in 2019, an increase of 7% compared with 2018.] – so the £45.4 billion figure for 2018 should be, with the new methodology, about £58 billion.
Overseas residents spent £22.9 billion on visits to the UK in 2018, a decrease of 7% compared with 2017. [£28.4 billion on visits to the UK in 2019, an increase of 7%] – so the £22.9 billion figure for 2018 should be, with the new methodology, about £26.4 billion.
The most frequent reason for visits was for holidays, both for UK residents visiting abroad and overseas residents visiting the UK.”
So the tourism deficit in 2018 was £45.4 – 22.9 – = £22.5 billion. (using the old methodology).
And with the amended figures for the new methodology, the 2018 tourism deficit was about £58 – 26.4 = £31.6 billion.
How much of the tourism deficit is due to air travel
Looking at how much of the tourism spend is due to air travel – we have the data on how many £ billions are lost to the UK, by the tourism deficit, due to air travel.
In 2019 the tourism deficit (about 88% of spending by British people abroad on trips taken by air) was around £30 billion.
Due to air travel.
Spending by UK residents abroad in 2019 (and in 2009).
ONS data from Table 3.9 at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/leisureandtourism/datasets/ukresidentsvisitsabroad
Total spending of all trips abroad – £ millions
2009 – £34,455
2019 – £62,325
Spending by those travelling abroad by air
2009 – £29,411 which was 85.36% by air
2019 – £54,976 which was 88.21% by air
Spending by Overseas visitors to the UK in 2019.
ONS data at
£24,933,000 by air overseas visits to UK in 2019
£28,228,000 in total – all travel modes – by overseas visits to UK in 2019
So air was 88.3% of total visitor spend.
So the tourism deficit for 2019 (UK spend abroad, minus overseas spend here) by air travel:
£54,976,000 minus £24,933,000
= £30.04 billion tourism deficit for the UK by air travel in 2019