Here are six things we learned about the travel industry from the latest ONS figures

Courtney Goldsmith
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Basically, North Americans are taking advantage of cheaper UK travel
Basically, North Americans are taking advantage of cheaper UK travel (Source: Getty)

On the back of reports that the UK's travel industry is facing choppy waters in the year ahead, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today released figures on how the sector stacked up over the period from July to September 2016.

Here are the most interesting things we learned.

1. North Americans are showing a growing interest in Britain

Official statistics said a record-breaking 10.7m visits were made to the UK in the third quarter of 2016 – that's 1.5 per cent up from the same period the year before. While visits from Europeans were up marginally (0.7 per cent), it was North Americans who really upped their game with their total visits rising 10.5 per cent. Economist Howard Archer from IHS Markit said the boost could've been due to the pound plunging against the dollar.

2. The economy got a huge boost thanks to those Americans

Tourist spending was up three per cent this quarter to an eye-watering £7.4bn. North Americans increased their spending the most, up 17.5 per cent over the quarter to £1.4bn. Spending by visitors from "other countries" grew 2.7 per cent, while Europeans held back and spent 1.8 per cent less.

(Source: ONS)

3. Brits are still taking holidays after Brexit (but not to the US)

Overall, Brits made 24.1m trips abroad during the quarter – up 7.4 per cent from the previous year – but whether because of Trump or the weak pound, travel to the US dropped. Visits to Europe were the most popular, heading up 8.6 per cent, while "other country" visits increased 6.1 per cent. Travels to North America were the only that fell. They dropped a whopping 5.8 per cent over the quarter.

4. Tourists are spending a bit less time in the UK

Overseas travellers spend an estimated 96.9m nights in the UK in the period, down 0.2 per cent from the same time last year. North Americans tended to increase their stay, spending 5.8 per cent more time in the country, and Europe increased by one per cent, but the number of nights spent by "other countries" fell 4.5 per cent, which dragged down totals.

5. Our international families are growing: Visits to see family and friends grew at the highest rate

Analysis of both inbound and outound travel showed most people were just going on holiday. However, the largest growing reason of travelling was to visit family and friends abroad. British travellers heading out to meet their loved ones was up 11.7 per cent in the quarter compared with those going on holiday, which grew 7.4 per cent and those going on business, which fell 4.1 per cent. The number of people coming to the UK to see friends and family was up 5.5 per cent, while those travelling for holidays was down 1.7 per cent and business visits were up 1.9 per cent.

6. It's not all about London

Overnight visits to London fell in the quarter by 0.8 per cent to 5.2m – and that's the only region that saw a loss. Overnight travellers to Scotland increased by 4.5 per cent, to Wales increased by 8.6 per cent and the rest of England was up 3.2 per cent compared with the previous year.

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