Tourist numbers keep rising in Britain despite Brexit turmoil

Kalila Sangster
"Tourists huddle beneath British flag umbrellas (they sell them there) during a London summer rainstorm near the Houses of Parliament. A dark cloudy typical summer day!Westminster, LondonUK"
Overseas tourists made 11.4 million trips to the UK from July to September 2019. Photo: Getty

The number of overseas tourists visiting the UK rose in 2019 despite Brexit uncertainty, official data shows.

Overseas residents made 11.4 million visits from July to September 2019, 5% more than the same period a year before, according to the Office for National Statistics.

During this time tourists spent £8.4bn ($11bn) on their visits to the UK, a rise of 18% compared with 2018.

The number of North American tourists increased by 13% to 1.8 million, and visits by residents countries outside of Europe and North America increased by 19% to 2.5 million.

However, Brexit uncertainty seemed to be having some impact as visits by European residents went down by 1% to 7 million.

READ MORE: Adopt business-friendly immigration post-Brexit, government told

Brexit turmoil doesn’t seem to be discouraging Brits from traveling to the continent, however. Visits by UK residents to European countries increased by 3%, going up to 20.7 million visits, despite Brexit fears sending the value of the pound sliding in July.

UK residents made 25.1 million trips abroad between July and September, 4% more than the corresponding period in 2018, spending £18.1 billion. Over 9.4 million trips abroad were made in August alone, with numbers of tourists spiking as it is traditionally the only complete month of the UK school summer holidays.

Taking holidays was the most popular reason for tourists coming to the UK from July to September last year, with 5.1 million visitors visiting on vacation during the prime summer holiday period. Business visits increased to 2.1 million, 1% more than in 2018, and visits to friends and relatives rose by 8% to 3.4 million.

The new figures come as business groups call on the government to create a business-friendly post-Brexit immigration system, amid concerns among UK tourism businesses that post-Brexit immigration rules could leave shortages in the workforce. The Office for National Statistics estimates that of the 3.3 million workers in the UK tourism industry, overseas workers account for around 16%.