MORE overseas visitors came to the UK in 2016 than ever before, new figures have shown.
Data released by VisitBritain showed that there were 37.3 million inbound visits to the UK last year, up 3% on 2015, spending £22.2 billion, matching 2015’s record spend.
The figures show strong growth in 2016 from North America, Canada and the US – the latter Britain’s most valuable tourism source market, with 4.3 million visits, up 7% on 2015, Visit Britain said.
Compared to 2010, there were 7.5 million more visits to the UK in 2016 than six years ago; an increase of 25%.
However, Visit Britain did not release information into where these overseas tourists stayed within the UK and what type of accommodation they booked.
Tourism Minister Tracey Crouch said the figures showed the UK is one of the world’s must-visit destinations.
“Our country has so much to offer tourists from home and abroad, from thriving cities to stunning scenery and renowned cultural attractions,” she said.
“The industry makes a significant contribution to our economy, and we will continue to support tourism to grow the sector further and promote the UK across the world.”
VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe added: “The strong growth in inbound visits demonstrates British tourism’s continued ability to compete for international visitors and deliver economic growth across our nations and regions.
“We must seize the opportunity to build on this, boosting visitor spending by driving home the message of welcome and value particularly in our high spending markets such as China and the US and the valuable European market.”
The figures show a boost in holiday visits to the UK towards the end of 2016 with a record 3.2 million visits from October to December, up 11% on the same period in 2015.
Inbound visits to friends and relatives saw strong growth throughout 2016 with a record-breaking 11.5 million visits, up 10% on 2015.
Tourism is worth £127 billion annually to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.