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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 has been ongoing since 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 (IPS) 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.

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 comparable with historical UK total data.  Moreover, it was not possible to publish any Scotland specific results from the International Passenger Survey for 2020 or Q1 2021. The ONS have made every effort to produce high-quality estimates for the periods when IPS data was not collected but have not been able to produce a full set of results due to the risks associated with the results being misleading. 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. The latest IPS publication from the Office of National Statistics covers the period July – September 2021 (Q3/2021).

GB Tourism Survey and GB Day Visits Survey

A temporary gap in the reporting of the domestic tourism monitors has resulted from the Covid-19 related travel restrictions and a planned update to the survey methodology during 2020.  This disruption has meant that the GB national tourist boards will be unable to publish detailed results from GBTS for 2020 or Q1 2021 and any data from this period will only be published after a thorough review to ensure they meet necessary quality standards.  Fieldwork resumed in April 2021 with the new methodology. Work is ongoing between the GBTS/GBDVS supplier and the UK Statistical Service Methodology Advisory Service to verify the outputs.

Scottish Accommodation Occupancy Survey

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


Currently, it is uncertain when these surveys will return to pre-pandemic performance.  However, if current projections are correct, the surveys should be running at some level of normality from summer 2022.

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

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

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.