VisitBritain/VisitEngland Report Shows Year of Tourism Growth

An extra £872 million in visitor spending was generated across the UK in the last year as a result of work by national tourism agency VisitBritain/VisitEngland latest figures show.

This means for every pound invested in the organisation, £20 of additional visitor spend was generated for the economy.

The figures, announced today at its 2016-17 annual review, come on the back of strong growth from inbound tourism. From January to July this year there were a record 23.1 million overseas visits to the UK, up 8% on the same period last year with visitors spending £13.3 billion, up 9%.

And VisitBritain is forecasting that overseas visits to the UK will increase 6% to 39.7 million in 2017 with spending up 14% to £25.7 billion by the end of this calendar year.

Brits are also taking more holidays at home. From January to June this year, domestic overnight holidays in England rose 7% to a record 20.4 million with visitors spending £4.6 billion, up 17% and also a record.

UK Minister for Tourism, John Glen, said:

“Tourism contributes billions to the UK economy, supports millions of jobs and is the lifeblood for many communities across the country. We have seen record-breaking inbound visits and spend this summer, which is testament to our world-class attractions and the innovation of our tourism industry.

“Internationally we are performing strongly in a hugely competitive market and 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, said the 16% fall in the exchange rate was making visiting Britain even more attractive but had impacted the overseas marketing budgets quite heavily – despite this, the organisation had delivered for British tourism.

Mr Ridgway, former Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic Airways, who is also leading the tourism industry’s bid for a sector deal(link is external) under the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy, said the industry was of growing importance.

Mr Ridgway said:

Tourism is an economic powerhouse, worth £127 billion annually to the economy and a job creator right across Britain. Two and a half times bigger than the automotive industry, employing three million, tourism is one of our most successful exports and needs no trade deals to compete globally.

“Tourism is a fiercely competitive global industry and you cannot just build a strong, resilient industry on a weaker currency. 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.

Mr Ridgway said that with a sector deal the UK tourism industry had the potential to more than double in value to £268 billion within a decade, increase employment to 3.8 million and boost productivity.

The tourism sector deal bid, now submitted to the Government for negotiation, aligns the industry on four priorities which are:

  • A 10-year tourism and hospitality skills campaign to boost recruitment, skills and long-term careers providing the industry with the workforce it needs;
  • Boosting productivity by extending the tourism season year-round and increasing global market share in the business visits and events sector;
  • Improve connections to increase inbound visits from more markets by 2030 by making it easier for overseas and domestic visitors to not only travel to the UK but explore more of it;
  • Creating ‘tourism zones’ to build quality tourism products that meet visitors needs and expectations, extending the tourism season and fixing localised transport issues to improve the visitor experience.
  • Speaking at the annual review launch Mr Ridgway also said that the £40 million three-year Discover England Fund(link is external), launched by the UK Government in 2015 to develop world-class bookable tourism products, had spurred innovation and collaboration across the industry.

The fund has supported 20 pilot projects in 2016-17 and this year a number of large-scale projects of more than £1 million, with six announced to date.

Mr Ridgway said that the organisation had also continued to build partnerships to amplify its message and convert the aspiration to travel to Britain into bookings. It had secured £20 million cash and in-kind for its international marketing, working with commercial partners including Expedia, the Premier League and British Airways and more than £2 million in kind from retail activities enabling product suppliers to reach international customers.

Last year, 2016, set a record for inbound tourism to Britain on visits and spend with 37.6 million visits, up 4% on 2015 with visitors spending £22.5 billion, up 2%.