A NEW record has been set for inbound visits to the UK in the first two months of the year.
Visit Britain figures show there was a 6% increase on the same period last year for overseas visits to the UK compared to 2016. Overseas visitors spent a record £2.7 billion in January and February, an 11% increase on last year, figures showed.
Tourism Minister Tracey Crouch welcomed the news, claiming that it “underlines the strength of our tourism industry”.
“Our fantastic welcome and world-class attractions are continuing to attract huge numbers of visitors from across the globe, which is great news for the whole country,” she said.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said it was a “cracking start” to the year and proved that inbound tourism was vital to the UK economy.
“Britain is offering great value for overseas visitors and we can see the success of our promotions in international markets. We must continue to build on our message of welcome and value in our high spending markets such as China, the US and the valuable European market,” she said.
Growth at the start of the year was led from long-haul markets including North America with 400,000 visits, up 2% compared to the same period last year as well as from other parts of the world up 15% to 790,000 visits.
There were 3.6 million visits from the EU in January and February, up 5% on the previous year.
Strong growth was also seen in holiday visits in January and February, up 15% on the same period in 2016 with 1.6 million visits. VisitBritain’s forecast predicts that growth is set to continue in 2017 with 38.8 million visits and with spending reaching £23.9 billion.
Bosses from hundreds of UK tourism-related businesses, including holiday parks and campsites, attended the British Tourism and Travel Show last month.
Held at the NEC in Birmingham, the show is the largest domestic tourism showcase of the year.
David McGuire, Group Event Director, said it was a “really exciting time for British and Irish tourism”.
“Yes, there are challenges ahead but also plenty of potential for growth – reflected both at the show and in our latest survey results,” he said.
“Visitor bookings are up and expected to stay up, with more people holidaying closer to home, while inbound tourism is enjoying a record high – with more overseas visitors than ever before.”