The UK's ability to attract overseas visitors is being hit by a dearth of foreign business travellers, it was revealed today.

The number of overseas residents visiting the UK for holiday purposes in the first nine months of this year is 3 per cent up on the same period in 2008, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed.

But business trips to the UK by overseas residents slumped by 23 per cent in January-September 2009.

This has meant that, overall, the number of visits to the UK by foreign residents has gone down 8 per cent to just under 23 million for the first nine months of 2009.

The amount spent by foreign visitors during their UK trips in January-September 2009 has remained flat at around £12.53bn. Spending rose for August 2009 and September 2009, possibly due to a rise in the number of visits by North Americans.

Today's ONS figures also revealed that while the number of trips taken abroad by UK residents has fallen sharply so far this year, some of those that have decided on foreign travel have opted to cut costs by visiting friends or relatives.

The number of visits by UK residents to friends and relatives abroad in the first nine months of this year is down 7 per cent, but this is a much less dramatic fall than visits abroad for holiday purposes (down 15 per cent) and for business (down 21 per cent).

Overall, UK residents have made 47.13 million trips abroad in January-September 2009 - a 15 per cent dip on the same period last year.

The amount they spent during their trips in the first nine months of this year has fallen 18 per cent to £24.38bn.