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News Article

UK Tourism trends: low cost airlines fuelling growth

Overseas residents visits to the UK increased by six per cent in 2002, and their spending grew by 4%, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics. In contrast, UK residents made 59.4 mill. visits abroad, spending a record £27.bill., resulting in a record trade deficit in travel and tourism. For Birmingham, the new figures were a cause for celebration, as the city made it into the list of top three most popular destinations for foreign visitors, and the city's airport reported record growth in passenger numbers.

Overseas residents visits to the UK increased by six per cent in 2002, and their spending grew by 4%, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics. In contrast, UK residents made 59.4 mill. visits abroad, spending a record £27.bill., resulting in a record trade deficit in travel and tourism. For Birmingham, the new figures were a cause for celebration, as the city made it into the list of top three most popular destinations for foreign visitors, and the city's airport reported record growth in passenger numbers.

The Office for National Statistics collects information on travel to and from the UK as part of its ongoing International Passenger Survey. In 2002, about 255,000 interviews were conducted, and the results were published in Travel Trends on 27 November 2003.

Selected findings reveal that:

  • overseas residents made 24.2 mill. visits to the UK, 1.3 mill. more than were made in 2001.
  • spending by overseas residents increased by 4% in 2002 to £11.7 bill., a recovery on the 2001 figures which represented a 12% fall from 2001
  • the majority of visits by overseas residents were from the EU (58%), more than three times the number of visits made by North America
  • residents of the USA continued to make the greatest number of visits (3.6 mill.) and spend the most money (£2.4 bill.), a slight increase on 2001, but still considerably down on pre-2000 figures.
  • The residents of France and Germany made the second and third largest number of visits to the UK, although total spending by US residents was almost as great as the combined total spending of visitors from other countries in the top five (France, Germany, the Irish Republic, Netherlands)
  • London was the most popular region of stay, with almost half of all overnight visits to the UK including a stay of at least one night there, amounting to 11.6 mill. overnight stays
  • Edinburgh was the second most popular place of visit, followed by Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.
  • The number of short trips (lasting 1 to 3 nights) made to the UK has increased by 17% over the past five years to 9.9 mill. in 2002. This increase may reflect the expansion of the budget airline industry in the EU, 

The Budget airline industry has had a knock on effect on the balance of trade deficit as it has made it easier for UK residents to travel in search of hotter climes. Budget airlines have introduced a plethora of new routes, with the result that more Britons than ever before are taking a foreign holiday.

The budget airline phenomenon has helped to shape the following trends in travel to and from the UK:

  • three quarters of all visits abroad by UK residents were to the EU and these accounted for 57% of all spending overseas. Nine out of the 10 most popular countries in 2002 were in EU Europe.
  • A record 59.4 mill. UK residents made a trip abroad in 2002, up by 2% on the number of visits made in 2001. They spent a record £27 bill. on these visits, £1.6 mill. more than in 2001.
  • Spain is the most popular destination for UK residents travelling abroad. The number of trips to Spain increased last year by 6.2% to 12.5 mill., while visits to France were up by 1.3% to 12.1 mill.
  • a record 44 mill. visits made by UK residents were by air, representing almost three quarters of all visits abroad.
  • Heathrow remains the most popular gateway for both UK residents travelling abroad and for overseas visiting the UK. Both overseas and UK residents increased the number of air visits they made in 2002, compared with the previous year, by 7 and 2% respectively.

icbirmingham.co.uk describes how the budget carrier MyTravelLite has expanded its operations from Birmingham International Airport. In October 2002 it launched daily services to Alicante and Malaga, and these were increased to increased to twice daily in the summer because of, "a surge in bookings from Midlanders trying to get to Spanish hot-spots. It has also added daily flights to Barcelona, Almeria, Palma, and Murcia.

New carriers such as MyTravelLite have helped 2003 become a record year for Birmingham International Airport. It has achieved record passenger numbers every month this year and is now set to smash through the nine million passenger mark by the end of 2003. According to Peter Vella, the Airport’s Business Development Director, "The arrival of lower fares, increased capacity and frequencies, and greater choice of destinations have also been important factors behind our growth and we will continue to work with airlines and tour operators to ensure that we serve the region’s air transport needs".

Links:

Office for National Statistics

icbirmingham.co.uk

Birmingham International Airport

Lawton, T. C. (Ed.) Cleared for take-off: structure and strategy in the low fare airline business. 2002, xi + 222 pp., many ref.

Article details

  • Date
  • 03 December 2003
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism
  • Travel and Technology