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The impact of COVID-19 on data and statistics

Information on the impact of the pandemic and travel restrictions on data collection and the implications for the tourism statistics

Due to the travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting decline in visitors, the availability of data from visitor research and the ongoing statistical surveys has been severely impacted.  While data collection for the domestic and international national statistics resumed in summer 2021, visitor volumes have impacted on their research sample sizes, which has implications for the accurate representation and richness of the results.

Status of the national tourism statistics

International Passenger Survey

The normal International Passenger Survey was suspended during the initial period of the pandemic, due to factors including the extremely limited international visitors and the safety of interviewers undertaking the surveys, therefore no data is available for 2020.

Results from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) for 2021 and 2022 are now available from the Office for National Statistics. You can access these results via Travel trends - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) and on the visitbritain.org website

During 2021, the IPS survey was operational at UK airports only. In ordinary times, surveying would also be conducted at UK tunnel terminals (Eurostar and Eurotunnel) as well as some UK sea ports (e.g. Dover), but this was not possible during this period. Therefore, the quarterly data published for 2021 is for air passengers only and is not directly comparable with historical UK total data.  More detailed information on the approach used to produce estimates when interviewing had been affected by COVID-19 can be found on the ONS website. 

GB Tourism Survey and GB Day Visits Survey

A temporary gap in the reporting of the domestic tourism monitors  resulted from the Covid-19 related travel restrictions and the update to the survey methodology during 2020 (more details of this can be found here).  This disruption has meant that the GB national tourist boards are unable to publish results from GBTS for 2020 or Q1 2021.  Fieldwork resumed in April 2021 with the new methodology. Data for April to December 2021 is being published on visitscotland.org. 2022 data, and subsequently 2023 data, will follow in the new year. 

Scottish Accommodation Occupancy Survey

Reports on occupancy continue to be produced on a regular monthly cycle.

Mitigations

During the period of disruption, VisitScotland collaborated with our partners in VisitBritain, VisitEngland and VisitWales to develop “tracking” research on the sentiment and travel intentions of domestic and international visitors. We have also been collecting insights on barriers to travel, concerns, confidence and preferred destinations to visit within the UK.  Insights from those research projects can be found on visitscotland.org

VisitBritain has also published forecasts and calculated estimates of domestic and international visitor numbers and spend based on a number of economic and social variables.  This data can be found on visitbritain.org

Analyses and dashboards on the Observatory which draw on the national statistics are based on data for 2019 – the last full year of normal running of the statistical surveys.

 

A general description of the statistics can be found in Scotland's National Tourism Statistics