Firstly, the WTA has expressed concern over the last couple of years regarding the reliability of the ONS’s IPS figures, especially when it comes to headline figures to look at visitors from specific markets or the number of visitors to Wales. Sample sizes are small and give increasingly large margins of error. This concern from us and others, namely the English Tourism Alliance has reached the point where the Office for Statistics Regulation has been asked to review the gathering of IPS data. So whilst the IPS figures are questionable the YTD figures give a pretty good indication of trends in visitor numbers and the impact that Brexit is having on tourism to the UK. Some highlights:
The main YTD figures indicate that visitor numbers are tracking 3% less than 2018 while spend is down 6%. The corresponding figures for 2018 were also down 7% and 5% respectively over the 2017 figures, which means that there has been a marked downturn in inbound tourism over the last two years.
Business and VFR figures have been weak for some time, overall tourism figures have been supported by an increase in holiday visits as tourists have taken advantage of the weak pound. However, the latest figures suggest that even holiday visitor numbers are starting to turn with numbers static for the previous three months and down 6% for the YTD
The Global Regions analysis gives an indication of the impact of Brexit on visitor numbers. North American and Rest of Europe markets are still doing well, but visitor numbers from the core EU countries are down 10% in the previous three months and 7% on YTD. Overall visitor numbers from the EU are down 4% on YTD and 8% between March and May, showing an accelerating trend over the first six months of the year.
The Competitors section of the report puts the figures above into some perspective with every other major European destination except Spain seeing growth of at least 4% compared to the UK’s 4% decline.