There was strong growth in overseas visits and spend to the UK’s nations and regions in the first six months of 2017, figures released today by VisitBritain show.
There were a record 19.2 million visits to the UK in the first half of 2017, up 9% compared to the start of 2016. Inbound visitors spent £10.8bn between January and June 2017, up 14% on the same time last year, a new record and the first time inbound visitor spending has topped £10 billion in the first half of any year.
The regions that saw the highest levels of growth in international visits between January and June 2017 were the North West, with 1.5 million visits, up 14% on the same period last year, and the West Midlands, with 1.1 million visits, also up 14% on the same period last year. Overseas visitor spend in the North West was up 40% to £684 million in the first six months of 2017, while the West Midlands saw a 12% increase in inbound spend in the first six months, up to £387 million.
Visits to London between January and June 2017 were up 13% to 10 million, a record first six months. Overseas visitor spend also hit a record in London, at £6.1 billion in the first six months of this year, up 16% compared to the same time last year.
The statistics also show that international visits to Scotland in the first half of the year were up 14% to a record 1.3 million, with spend setting another record of £956 million, up 35% on the same time last year.
Tourism Minister John Glen said, 'Tourism makes a huge economic contribution to the UK and it is great news that towns and cities across the country are benefiting from this boom, with fantastic growth in the West Midlands, North West and Scotland in particular.
'Promoting the UK to the world is a priority and the increase in visits from American and Chinese tourists shows that Britain remains a must-visit destination.'
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said, “It is encouraging to see such growth to our nations and regions, Britain has so much to offer, from our cool and modern cities to our stunning coastal towns and our charming rural villages, with more and more overseas visitors inspired to come here for a truly unique experience.
“Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and the continued growth demonstrates the industry’s increasing importance as a key driver of economic growth across the whole of the UK.”
The growth was driven by strong visits from inbound markets including China and the US. Overseas visits from China for the first six months of 2017 were up 47% on the same time last year to a record 115,000, and spend was also at record levels at £231 million, up 54% compared to the first six months of 2016.
Visits from the US were up 31% in the first six months of the year to 1.9 million, with spend at a record £1.8 billion, up 28% on the same period last year.
Latest data from ForwardKeys shows that flight bookings for international arrivals to the UK for October to December are tracking 7% ahead when compared to the same period last year.
VisitBritain forecasts that overseas visits to the UK will reach 39.7 million with spending up of £25.7 billion by the end of this calendar year.