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Comment on the Quarter 3 2008 ONS Overseas Travel and Tourism statistics

"Inflationary pressures and diminished consumer confidence have seen an increasingly cautious approach to travel both in the UK and in several key visitor markets, with a fall of four per cent in overseas tourists visiting the UK, and similarly a drop of three per cent in the number of UK residents staying abroad.

"As the global economy remains turbulent, there has been a particularly sharp decline in US visitors to the UK, a drop of 21 per cent year on year, and the sterling’s recent fall against the dollar has so far not attracted US visitors against the current economic backdrop. Therefore these figures should be something of a wake-up call for the industry to ensure that it becomes more effective in attracting tourists from stronger growth economies, particularly in Asia, which remain largely positive in terms of UK visitor numbers. The ongoing strength in the number of Europeans visiting London, due in part to the relative stability of the Euro, is also some compensation for the decline in North American travellers.

"Outbound, a major drop in oil prices will come as a welcome relief to airlines and travellers alike as fuel surcharges are reduced. Another positive is the increase in UK residents visiting Eastern Europe, encouraged by the relative value-for-money holidays, particularly in the nations that have yet to adopt the euro, which shows there is still a healthy consumer appetite for travel bargains. Over the next 12 months this trend is set to continue, along with the popularity of last minute deals. Should oil prices remain low, and interest rates and inflation continue to fall, this will certainly offer some compensation to the industry as a whole, and regain some of the consumer confidence lost in the year to date."