Tourists to UK slumped as coronavirus crisis grew from January to March

Incoming tourism to the UK dropped by one-sixth in the first three months of 2020, as the Covid-19 crisis took hold.

Spending by overseas visitors was down by 10 per cent between January and March, amounting to nearly half a billion pounds.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics are subject to “heightened uncertainty” because normal collection work was suspended in mid-March.

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But they are undoubtedly a precursor to a total collapse in tourism between April and June.

Figures for the main summer months of July and August are expected to be badly hit, partly as a result of the UK’s blanket quarantine policy, which operated for over a month from 8 June.

While the obligation to self-isolate for two weeks on arrival has been eased from some countries, visitors from most overseas nations are still required to quarantine.

Overseas residents made seven million visits to the UK in the first quarter, and spent £4.3bn.

A survey by UKInbound found that more than half the firms that bring overseas visitors to Britain expect to close within six months unless they receive funding from the government.

In addition, 88 per cent expect to make redundancies.

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “Tourism businesses that rely wholly on international visitors for their livelihoods are on their knees.” Incoming visitors were outnumbered almost two to one by British travellers going abroad.

The figure of 13,900,000 trips was down by almost a quarter on the previous year.

The sharpest fall, of 26 per cent, was to European countries. Visits to the US dropped by only 3 per cent.

Spending abroad by British visitors dropped by one-fifth to £9.2bn.

Travel businesses have characterised the summer of 2020 as an “extra winter”.

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