Statistics released by the British Hospitality Association (BHA) show the number of holiday visitors to the UK from abroad in November 2016 rose by 32.4% year on year, "significantly ahead of expectations".
However, the BHA's Travel Monitor revealed that the year-to-date figure for holidaymakers was down by 1% and the number of Britons travelling abroad continued to rise, suggesting a slowdown in staycations. Spending by overseas visitors in total was up 14.1% year on year, while the total number of visitors to the UK was up 2.8%, with most of the increase being in people visiting friend or relatives.
Meanwhile, the BHA's Quarterly Inbound Travel Monitor reported a recovery in Q3 2016 inbound holiday passenger spend. Combined with November's strong return to growth in passenger numbers, the figures suggest that the UK hospitality industry should start to benefit from the recent currency depreciation.
The third quarter saw overseas spend in the UK return to growth due to strong growth in ‘miscellaneous' visits and visits to friends and relatives, despite a 7.3% decline in spend by business passengers. Inbound holiday passengers spent an estimated £64m less in the UK year to date than in the same period in 2015, while business passengers have spent an estimated £291m less. Overall inbound spend in London was down 6% compared with Q3 2015, but up strongly in the rest of the UK.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: "Thankfully trading in November has been very encouraging and has helped offset poor performance earlier in the year. The low rate of sterling presents a great opportunity for our industry to welcome an increasing number of foreign visitors but we cannot and should not rely on fluctuating rates in the long term.
"With political and economic uncertainty increasing it is more important than ever to ensure UK tourism can compete. The UK continues to have on average twice the tourism VAT rate than that across Europe. Alongside businesses investing in the apprenticeship levy, rising business rates and the threat of online platforms such as Airbnb, this signals concern for businesses in the industry, four out of five of which are SMEs."
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