According to the ONS figures, total overseas visits by UK residents in 2018 totalled 90.6 million, rising to 93.1 million in 2019.
UK travel abroad peaked that year, before falling to 23.8 million trips in 2020 – a year which began strongly, at 13.9 million in the first quarter, compared with 16.6 million for Q1 2018 and 19.4 million for Q1 2019 respectively, before plunging to a nadir of 0.9 million trips in Q2 2020.
While there was a partial recovery in late 2020, with UK outbound traffic reaching nine million trips for the second half of the year driven by surge of traffic between July and September, the onset of the second wave of lockdowns in the autumn and winter again reduced traffic.
In 2021, the ONS recorded 19.1 million outbound trips by UK travellers. While outbound travel in Q1 2021 fell to the same low as in Q2 2020, at 0.9 million trips, a second partial recovery was later experienced throughout the year, with nine million outbound trips recorded for the fourth quarter.
In addition, according to the ONS, between 2018 and 2020, 63 per cent an average of around 63 per cent of foreign trips were for holidays, while just 25 per cent were to visit friends and family. 10 per cent of trips were also for business.
This changed in 2021, when only 47 per cent of visits were for holidays, while visits to see friends and relatives increased to 43 per cent. Business trips also reduced slightly, to seven-per-cent.
The recovery which began in 2021 is expected to continue in the coming years, with substantial growth forecast for 2022 and 2023. According to research by travel insurer Staysure, UK holidaymakers are already being more ‘adventurous’ in their summer holiday destination choices, while World Travel Protection has found in their own research that business trips are showing signs of recovery as well.