Travel suffers ‘biggest downturn in three decades’

UK outbound travel suffered its biggest downturn in more than three decades last year, with business travel suffering disproportionately.

The Office of National Statistics reports a 15% year-on-year fall in overseas trips to 58.6 million in 2009, down from 69 million in 2008 – the sharpest fall since the mid-1970s.

The number of corporate travel trips declined by 23%, with a 15% fall in foreign holidays and 6.5% drop in overseas visits to friends and family. However, holidays saw the largest numerical fall in trips – from 45.5 million in 2008 to 38.5 million last year. Business trips declined from 8.9 million to 6.9 million.

Overseas spending by UK residents fell by more than £5 billion to £31.7 billion and average spending per trip declined by 14% year on year.

However, the average length of stay abroad grew from 10.2 nights in 2008 to 10.5 nights last year despite major tour operators reporting a trend away from traditional 14-night holidays.

By contrast, the number of inbound holidaymakers to the UK rose by 500,000 to 11.4 million in 2009.

Overseas travel from the UK grew by an average 4% a year for 25 years up to 2007.

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