UK tourists have splashed out during their trips abroad this year as North America tops the chart of British holiday destinations

Francesca Washtell
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Britons' trips to North America, including destinations such as New York, rose 10 per cent over the last year (Source: Getty)

UK holidaymakers splashed out on their trips abroad this spring, while overseas visitors to the UK pulled tighter on their pursestrings.

Britons made 16.4m visits abroad in the three months to May 2016, a four per cent increase compared with the same period of last year, according to data released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In that time, travellers spent 10 per cent more abroad year-on-year.

However, over the 12 months to May UK travellers went on more trips and spent even more: visits abroad grew by eight per cent and spending rose 12 per cent to a total of £40.4bn.

Britons flashed their passports at an increasing array of international borders as well, as visits to all areas of the world rose over the last year. Trips to North America rose by 10 per cent, visits to Europe by nine per cent and to other countries by two per cent.

The range of reasons for travelling also increased, including holidays (eight per cent), business (nine per cent), and visits to friends and relatives (nine per cent).

There were 9.2m foreign visitors to the UK this spring, a similar number to the same time last year, but their spending dipped five per cent year-on-year to £4.8bn.

Read more: Here's how many billions tourists spend in London every year

This may have been driven in part by travellers' reasons for visiting the UK: in the 12 months to May the number of holiday-related visits decreased by one per cent, while business trips and visits to friends or relatives grew nine per cent.

Matching the first place spot of Britons' top overseas destination, visitors from North America were up nine per cent, while visits from Europe and other countries grew by four per cent, the ONS said.

Over the last year the number of visits to the UK was four per cent higher than in the year before, while the total amount spent by visitors decreased by one per cent.

Read more: This county is a surprise top European tourist destination this summer

However, this could be set to change in the next quarter – European tourist bookings to London have been down 35 per cent year-on-year in the two weeks after the referendum in June, while bookings to the UK were down 14 per cent, according to travel site Tripsta.

The number of British travellers overseas could also fall, as speculation is rife that the domestic "staycation" tourism sector could boom in the coming months as the drop in Sterling puts people off holidays abroad.

Figures released earlier this month by TravelSupermarket estimated the ten per cent drop of the pound against the euro will mean an average family will have to pay an extra £245 for a European holiday.

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