The figures were announced as part of VisitBritain/VisitEngland’s 2016/2017 annual review. The tourism agency pointed out that £20 of additional visitor spend is being generated for every pound invested in their organisation.
The buoyant figures give rise to hopes that the UK travel industry could more than double in a decade.
The UK is experiencing strong inbound tourist growth. The first half of 2017 saw a record 23.1 million overseas visits to the UK. This figure is up by eight percent on the same period in 2016. Visitors spent £13.3 billion, an increase of nine percent.
VisitBritain forecasts that these figures will increase by six percent to 39.7 million with spending expected to rise by 14 percent to £25.7 billion by the end of December.
Domestic breaks are also more popular as the British take more holidays at home. From January to June 2017, domestic overnight holidays in England rose seven percent to a record 20.4 million. Home visitors spent a record-breaking £4.6 billion, up 17 percent.
“Tourism contributes billions to the UK economy, supports millions of jobs and is the lifeblood for many communities across the country,” says John Glen, UK Minister for Tourism. He cites “world-class attractions and the innovation of our tourism industry” for the record-breaking inbound visits and spend.
“Internationally we are performing strongly in a hugely competitive market,” he continues. “I will continue to work closely with the sector to maintain growth, get the best possible deal as we exit the EU and retain the UK’s position as the must-visit destination.”
British Tourist Authority Chairman, Steve Ridgway CBE, believes that the 16 percent drop in the exchange rate is making Britain a highly attractive destination. However it has also had a heavy impact on overseas marketing budgets.
“Tourism is an economic powerhouse, worth £127 billion annually to the economy and a job creator right across Britain,” says Ridgway. He points out that tourism employs three million people and is one of the country’s most successful exports. “Tourism is a fiercely competitive global industry,” he says. “We must continue to invest in developing world-class tourism products, getting Britain on the wish-list of international and domestic travellers. And we must make it easy for visitors to make that trip.”
Ridgway believes that a sector deal could offer the UK tourism industry the opportunity to more than double in value to £268 billion within a decade. Employment could be increased to 3.8 million and productivity boosted.
The tourism sector deal involves a 10-year campaign to boost recruitment, skills and long-term careers for the industry. It would increase productivity by extending the tourism season and bumping global market share in the business visits and events sector. Tourism zones would also be created.
The £40 million Discover England Fund, launched by the government in 2015 is a three-year project aimed at spurring innovation and collaboration across the industry. The fund supported 20 pilot projects last year. This year it is behind a series of large-scale (more than £1 million) projects.
The organisation continues to build partnerships. It has secured £20 million cash and in-kind for its international marketing. It is working with commercial partners that include Expedia, the Premier League and British Airways.