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 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. This is a new record and the first time inbound visitor spending has been more than £10bn in the first half of any year.
The UK 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 £684m 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 £387m.
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 £6.1bn 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 £956m, up 35% on the same time last year.
Much of the growth was driven by 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 £231m, 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 £1.8bn, 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 £25.7bn by the end of this calendar year.
Patricia Yates, director of VisitBritain, 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.”