First official figures on tourism since Brexit shows Britons cut their spending overseas by 1 pc
Spending by UK visitors peaked in July, while British holidaymakers’ cut their spending overseas, reveals the first official figures on travel trends since Brexit.
The Office for National Statistics said foreign visitors, including tourists and those on business trips, spent 2 per cent more this July than a year ago at £1.79 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis. UK visitors going overseas spent £3.55 billion, down 1 per cent on a year earlier.
The rise in spending by overseas visitors in July followed four months of falls and came as the sharp drop in the pound against the euro, dollar and other currencies boosted visitor spending power, reports The Guardian.
Other reports have suggested British department stores enjoyed a boost to sales of watches and jewellery over the summer as foreign tourists exploited the pound’s post-referendum slump to go on luxury shopping sprees.
The weaker pound, which fell to a 31-year low against the dollar of $1.2796 after the Brexit vote, brings mixed fortunes for Britons. It makes their foreign holidays and imported goods more expensive but boosts the competitiveness of UK exporters by making goods cheaper overseas.
The pound had stabilised in recent weeks, albeit well below levels recorded before the EU referendum. But on Friday it was under pressure again and dropped below $1.30. This was blamed on worries that Brexit talks could begin within months, following comments by Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.
Johnson said on Thursday that the UK government was likely to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of the country’s formal departure from the EU early next year.
The ONS has cautioned against reading too much into any one month’s figures. In this latest release on tourism, it made no mention of the referendum’s effects. The figures put the number of visits to the UK by overseas residents in July 2016 at 3.07 million, a 1 per cent rise from July 2015, using seasonally adjusted figures.
UK residents made 5.79 million visits abroad, also a 1 per cent rise compared with July 2015.
Many of the early economic indicators on the UK since the referendum have come in above economists’ gloomy forecasts, with signs that consumer spending has held up well and the housing market has remained steady.
Earlier this week the ONS said a check on the data released so far suggested that there had not been a huge shock to the economy. - IH