The Office for National Statistics figures show visits from January to March were up 6 per cent on the same period last year to 7.36 million, with visitors spending £3.64 billion.
Strong growth was seen in particular from EU countries with 5.27 million visits, up 7% on the first three months of 2015 and setting a record first quarter.
Visits from North America, one of the UK’s most valuable inbound markets, were also up 7% compared to the same period last year. In March alone, visits were up 12%.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:
“These best-ever first quarter figures are a tangible demonstration of the growing importance of inbound tourism to the UK economy, as we continue to showcase globally why our nations and regions should top the list as must-see destinations.”
Tourism Minister David Evennett said:
“Our tourism industry is booming as our world-class attractions, heritage and culture make Britain the first choice destination for many, with visit numbers at an all-time high.
“Tourism is making a massive contribution to our economy and we want to keep up this momentum, encouraging more people to come and enjoy the very best of Britain for themselves.”
Last year set a record for inbound tourism to Britain on visits and spend with 36.1 million visits, 5% up on 2014, and spending up 1% to £22.1 billion.
Comparing growth during the last five years shows that there were six million more visits in 2015 than 2010, an increase of more than 20%.