Skift Take

London in winter? Despite a January freeze, American tourists warmed to the UK's allures.

Hardy and high-spending Americans braved harsh weather to boost British tourism in the first month of this year.

Overall, the number of visits by overseas residents to the UK dipped 1pc to 2.2m in January – a month which saw significant snow throughout Britain. But visits by North Americans rose 7pc, compared with the same month last year, and they helped push up overall spending by foreign visitors to Britain by 11pc to £1.24bn in January, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The boost by US tourists followed strong visitor numbers at the end of last year. Between November 2012 and January 2013, overseas residents made 7pc more visits to the UK than in the same quarter a year earlier, and they spent 8pc more on these visits.

With Britons keen to get away from the cold and gloom of an English winter, the number of UK residents’ visits abroad rose 6pc to 3.44m in January, with the amount they spent during these trips increasing 6pc to £2.04bn. Expenditure abroad was up 2pc year on year over the three months to January 2013. The increased figures came despite the cancellation of many flights at UK airports during the cold snap in the middle of the month.

Longer term, total travel and tourism numbers are stable. Visits to the UK grew 1pc in the 12 months to January 2013, compared with the previous year, and earnings from these visits rose 4pc.

In the 12 months to January, the number of visits abroad by UK residents was unchanged in percentage terms from a year earlier but spending on these visits rose 3pc.

The number of visits to Europe increased by 1pc, while those to North America fell by 4pc. More Britons travelled abroad on business and to see friends and relatives but the number of holidays taken fell 1pc.

Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, said: “After strong visitor numbers in December, January saw tourist figures fall away.

“The Arctic blast put many off and, of course, ongoing economic concerns continue to worry many travellers. However, despite hundreds of cancelled flights, the outbound market got off to a flying start as UK holidaymakers sought to escape the sub-zero temperatures.

“Many of our clients are reporting strong booking numbers for summer holiday packages but the industry will keep a watchful eye on the impact of April’s increase in air passenger duty.”

Here’s more data on UK visitor numbers, and the Office for National Statistics report:
Overseas residents’ visits to UK: Non-seasonally adjusted

Visits (000s) % change from year earlier Earnings (£ million) % change from year earlier
Jan-13 2,220 -1 1,240 +11
Nov 2012 to Jan 2013 7,090 +7 4,060 +8
Year to date 2013 2,220 -1 1,240 +11

Overseas residents’ visits to UK: Seasonally adjusted

Visits (000s) % change from year earlier Earnings (£ million) % change from year earlier
Aug 2,450 -5 1,770 +14
Sept 2,610 +2 1,790 +20
Oct 2,570 -4 1,420 -12
Nov 2,680 +8 1,520 -1
Dec 2,760 +12 1,620 +14
Jan 2,620 0 1,620 +9



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Tags: tourism, uk

Photo credit: While more visitors from the U.S. traveled to the UK in January, Brits took off on beach vacations. Pictured is the Greenwich Maritime Museum in late January 2013. Michael Sean Gallagher /

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