The number of visits abroad by UK travellers slumped by 14 per cent or 9.8 million to 60.8 million in the year to September.

Holiday travel to the UK increased by a marginal one per cent during the 12 months, according to recent data released by the ONS in the latest Overseas Travel and Tourism Statistical Bulletin. Business trips by UK residents abroad were reported as down by 16% in the 12 months to September, compared with a year earlier.

Visits abroad in the peak summer quarter between July and September fell by one per cent to 14.7 million with associated spending of £7.6 billion.

Chris Lee, head of travel at Barclays, said:“Today’s travel figures reflect an international travel market still suffering from the hang-over induced by the global recession and, for UK travellers, the effects of sterling weakness.

“Generally, while British holidaymakers that can afford one, view their annual break away as almost sacrosanct, an additional weekend city break or skiing holiday seems to have fallen by the wayside, a trend that is set to impact the industry throughout the winter.

“However, many specialist operators such as cruises and niche tour operators have held steady by providing a focused, unique offering which consumers cannot replicate on their own.

“Prudent business owners and managers have also been moving towards leaner, more agile operations better able to react to increasingly late booking patterns and changes in consumer demand, which should benefit these operators next year as the number of UK travellers in the first half of 2010 looks to hold steady rather than move back to a position of strong growth.”

VisitBritain hailed the inbound figures as showing that the UK tourism industry looks to have reached a “turning point”.

The national tourism agency forecasts that inbound tourism will help lead Britain’s economic recovery during the coming months with modest growth expected in 2010.