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Impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak

Like all industries in the UK, the tourism industry is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Library has published information about the support available to businesses which have been affected by the virus. The Library also has a list of publications and resources about coronavirus in general.

This note includes statistics on inbound and outbound visitors to and from the UK, domestic tourism in the UK, the contribution of tourism to the UK economy and the Government’s tourism policy.

Between 1980 and 2018, the number of inbound visits to the UK increased by 205%. The number of outbound visits from the UK increased by a greater proportion – 310% over the same period.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of inbound and outbound trips fell. This was the first time the number of overseas visits had decreased since 2010.

Visitor numbers:

  • There were 37.9 million inbound visits to the UK in 2018, 3% fewer than in 2017
  • There were 72.8 million outbound visits from the UK, a fall of 1% on 2017. Spain was the most popular destination for UK tourists, attracting 22% of all visits.

There were 118.6 million domestic overnight trips made in Great Britain in 2018, a decline of 2% on the number of domestic visits made in 2017.


Economic impact:

  • In 2016, the economic output (direct GVA) of the tourism industry in the UK was £68 billion, 6% of total UK economic output.
  • In 2016, the number of people directly employed in tourism in the UK was1.5 million, 5% of all employment.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, the number of people directly employed in tourism fell by 66,000 or 4.1%

Tourism policy

Sector Deals are partnerships between certain industries and government, created as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy. In June 2019, the government announced the Tourism Sector Deal. The aim of the deal is to boost productivity within the tourism sector, develop skills of the UK workforce, and support tourism destinations in the UK.

In the Tourism Sector Deal, the government and sector have committed to actions under the ‘five foundations’ to help increase visitor numbers in the UK, and enhance their experience, as well as future proof the industry.

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