Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba

Overview

  • The International Passenger Survey (IPS) has information on the numbers and types of visits made by people travelling to and from the UK.

  • The survey is carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). VisitBritain, VisitScotland and Visit Wales are sponsors of the survey.

  • This page details findings for international tourism to Scotland only.

  • In 2022, international travel to Scotland showed strong signs of recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of visits remained slightly lower than in 2019. But the number of nights as well as visitor spending in Scotland surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

  • IPS data can be subject to revisions. Further information is available within the methodology on this page. The 2023 full year data is scheduled to be released at the end of March 2024 (to be confirmed).

International tourism performance in 2022

Published July 2023

1. Executive summary

In 2022, Scotland saw a strong rebound in international travel following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the number of visits remained slightly lower compared to 2019, the number of nights and visitor spending exceed pre-pandemic levels. These positive indicators point to a promising recovery in Scotland's tourism sector.

A total of 3.2 million visits were made to Scotland by international visitors, staying for 29.7 million nights and spending £3,151 million. Though visits were down 7% compared to 2019, the number of nights went up by 9% and visitor spending by 24% in nominal terms, each setting a new January - December record. Taking inflation into account, overall spend would have been up 10% on 2019, equivalent to £2,791 million in 2019 prices.

International tourism performance 2019 and 2022

Year Visits Nights Spend
2019 3,460,000 27,385,000 £2,538 million
2022 3,234,000 29,770,000 £3,151 million
Change -7% 9% 24%

International performance 2015-2022

Year Visits Nights Spend
2015 2,634,000 21,442,000 £1,720 million
2016 2,871,000 22,482,000 £1,944 million
2017 3,431,000 26,450,000 £2,459 million
2018 3,729,000 25,443,000 £2,379 million
2019 3,460,000 27,385,000 £2,538 million
2021 479,000 7,586,000 £459 million
2022 3,234,000 29,770,000 £3,151 million

Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS)

International visits to Scotland 2022 By Quarter

All passengers Quarter one 2022 Quarter two 2022 Quarter three 2022 Quarter four 2022  2022
Visits  255,000 775,000 1,355,000 850,000 3,234,000
Spend  £184 million £881 million £1,407 million £680 million £3,151 million

International visits to Scotland 2022 By Purpose

Journey purpose Visits 2022 % change versus 2019 Spend 2022 % change versus 2019
All visits 3,234,000 -7% £3,151 million +24%
Holiday 1,882,000 -11% £2,011 million +24%
Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) 922,000 +7% £641 million -44%
Business 307,000 -17% £244 million -21%
Miscellaneous 123,000 +2% £256 million +60%

Source: International Passenger Survey (IPS)

2. Methodology

The International Passenger Survey (IPS) is a continuous survey conducted at major ports of entry to or exit from the UK. The survey provides information on the numbers and types of visits made by people travelling to and from the UK. It covers all major, air, sea and tunnel ports. Anonymous face to face interviews are undertaken with a sample of passengers as they enter or leave the UK. IPS data is published on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website.

Our partner, VisitBritain is a member of the IPS Steering Group and one of the main users of data generated by overseas residents visiting the UK. They have published a Methodology summary and a frequently asked questions document. Read more about the International Passenger Survey on VisitBritain.

The impact of COVID-19 in relation to IPS data collection

IPS estimates are subject to both planned and unplanned revisions. Methodological improvements relating to the survey's weighting were introduced for the 2019 estimates, and a revised series was published in May 2019 for the years 2009 to 2018.

The IPS was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic between 16 March 2020 and 18 January 2021. Therefore, high-level estimates of travel and tourism have been produced by the ONS for April to December 2020 using alternative sources. The IPS remained suspended at some seaports and train stations in 2021. The ONS has applied the following processes to the data since March 2020:
 

March 2020 -With the data collected for most of March when the IPS was running the ONS had part of the data needed for the month. To produce estimates for the full month of March the ONS worked on the assumption that passenger characteristics in the second, unsampled, half of the month were represented by those sampled in the first half.

April – December 2020 (Q2, Q3, Q4 2020) - The travel and tourism figures for this period are based entirely on administrative sources and modelling as no data was collected during this period. 

2021 – The ONS were unable to restart interviewing at Eurotunnel (but continued at Eurostar) in Q4 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The ONS has used passenger numbers to model the Eurotunnel data for this quarter. Data for those travelling via Dover was only collected from Q3 2021. In addition, no estimates are included for any travel across the Irish border.

January to June 2022 – The ONS were unable to restart interviewing at Eurotunnel (but continued at Eurostar) during this period due to COVID-19 restrictions. The ONS has used passenger numbers to model the Eurotunnel data for Q1-Q2 2022. The ONS restarted IPS interviews at all ports from July 2022.

3. Previous reports

In 2021, international travel was still recovering from COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions. The volume and value of international visits to Scotland in 2021 remained at significantly lower levels than seen up to 2019.

International tourism performance in 2021

Published August 2023

4. Official statistics and partners

The International Passenger Survey (IPS) is a continuous survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is made following the Code of Practice for Official Statistics (2022) as produced by the Office for Statistics Regulation.

Read the Code of Practice for Official Statistics on code.statisticsauthority.gov.uk.

5. Additional research resources

Related links