Tourism

UK inbound tourism hits record high in 2016

More overseas visitors travelled to the UK in 2016 than ever before, according to new figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In 2016 there were a record 37.3 million inbound visits to the UK, up 3% on 2015, with visitors spending £22.2bn – matching 2015s record spend.

The figures show strong growth in 2016 from North America, Canada and the US – the latter Britain’s most valuable tourism source market, with 4.3 million visits, up 7% on 2015. Meanwhile, there were a record 25.3 million visits from the EU in 2016, up 4% on 2015.

Comparing growth during the last six years shows there were 7.5 million more visits in 2016 than 2010, an increase of 25%.

Sally Balcombe, VisitBritain’s chief executive, said: “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.”

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 relatives saw strong growth throughout 2016 with a record-breaking 11.5 million visits, up 10% on 2015.

Looking ahead, latest ONS 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 with the same period last year.

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