The UK’s outbound market fell at the fastest rate on record last year as businesses slashed budgets and leisure travellers opted for staycations.
New data released by the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of UK visits abroad fell 15 percent in 2009 compared to 2008 – the largest slump since records began in the 1970s. The corporate market was particularly hard hit, falling almost a quarter.
The UK’s inbound market also suffered, albeit at a slower rate, with international visitor numbers down 6.3 percent to 29.9m. Business trips to the UK fell by 20 percent. However receipts from visits by overseas residents rose to £16.6bn from £16.3bn in the previous year.
The slump in both inbound and outbound markets follows a long period of growth that only started to tail off in 2007. However, according to the ONS, those travelling overseas are going for longer, with the average stay rising to 10.5 nights in 2009, from 9.9 nights two years earlier.
Although the UK economy is slowing recovering from the recession in 2010, the travel industry maintains a cautious outlook, particularly given the disruption earlier this year from the volcanic ash cloud and strikes by British Airways cabin crew.
Scotland has benefits from the staycation, as well as a rise in overseas visitors. Edinburgh enjoyed a 133,000 jump-in visits, keeping its place as the second most visited city after London.
Overseas, there were only a handful of countries that enjoyed a rise in UK visitors, including Egypt, Jamaica and Lithuania.