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Dropping UK COVID-19 travel rules led to surge in overseas visitor spending, stats reveal

Tom Shearsmith
27 June 2022

Scrapping Coronavirus travel rules led to a 27-fold year-on-year increase in the number of overseas residents visiting the UK, new figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 2.1 million inbound visits were made in April, up from 81,000 during the same month last year.

All remaining Coronavirus rules for people entering the UK were lifted on 18 March, including the requirement to complete a passenger locator form and tests for unvaccinated travellers.

Spending by overseas residents in April hit £1.7 billion, 14 times more than in April 2021. This is a major boost for the UK’s tourism sector, which has been badly affected by the virus.

But despite the increase in visits, the total was a third below pre-pandemic levels, with 3.2 million recorded in April 2019.

Spending time with friends or family was the most common reason for foreigners visiting the UK in April (37%), followed by a holiday (34%).

The ONS also said UK residents made 5.6 million overseas visits in April. This is 20 times more than the 274,000 made in April last year, but a third below the 8.4 million during the same month in 2019.

VisitBritain Chief Executive Patricia Yates said: “It is encouraging to see the beginning of recovery in overseas visits to the UK and visitor spending following the lifting of all COVID-19 travel restrictions, boosting consumer confidence in travelling and booking trips.

“We know there is pent-up demand for international travel with many people not yet having made up their minds where to go, so there’s valuable opportunities to sell Britain.

“Our priority is building back visitor spending as quickly as possible and we’ve been out in our key overseas markets – including Europe and the US – since February with our Welcome To Another Side of Britain campaign, competing hard for international visitors who contribute billions to our economy.”

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