The figures reveal strong growth in 2016 from Canada and the US. The US remains Britain’s most valuable tourism source market, with 4.3 million visits, up 7% on 2015.
In addition, there was a record 25.3 million visits from the European Union in 2016, up 4% on 2015.
Overall, there were 7.5 million more visits in 2016 than 2010, an increase of 25%.
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 family also saw strong growth throughout 2016 with a record-breaking 11.5 million visits, up 10% on 2015.
Latest flight booking data shows that 2017 is off to a strong start, with flight bookings to the UK up 16% for February to April compared to the same period last year.
Tourism minister Tracey Crouch 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.”