UK welcomed record number of tourists in 2015

New figures show that 2015 set a new record for inbound tourism to the UK with 35.8 million visits, four per cent up on 2014 and the sixth consecutive year of growth. 

Comparing growth over the last five years shows that there were six million more visits in 2015 than 2010, an increase of 20%.

Visitors spent £21.8 billion in the UK last year in line with 2014’s record breaking figure. When considering spending for December only last year, a new record was set with overseas visitors spending £1.7bn, up 1% on December 2014.

Tourism Minister David Evennett said: “Tourism is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, and attracting more international visitors to our shores is not only important for the sector but for the nation’s whole economy.

“These record figures show how our incredible mixture of stunning countryside, world-class sport, historic buildings and thriving cities continue to be a major draw for tourists.”

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “This growth is really fantastic news for the UK economy and shows we’re on track to realise our ambition to grow international visits by more than 20% to 42 million by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend, as well as driving tourism across all our nations and region so its benefits are felt across the whole of Britain.”

Visits from North America, which includes Canada and the USA, the latter the UK’s most valuable tourism source market, showed growth of 8% last year compared to 2014, with 3.9m visits.

It was a record year for visits from the high volume EU15 markets, with a 2% increase on 2014 to 19.9m visits.

A record was also set for visits from the ‘Rest of the World’ with 5.6m, a 6% increase on 2014.

Regarding the types of journeys made, record results were seen in the number of holiday visits to the UK with 13.7m visits, 1% up on 2014, as well as those visiting friends and relatives, 10.5m, up 7% on 2014. Visits for business increased 6% on 2014 with 8.7m visits and people coming for other reasons, defined by the International Passenger Survey as miscellaneous journey purposes, was up 5% on 2014 with 2.9m visits.

Latest forecasts from VisitBritain show that the growth in visitor numbers is set to continue this year with 36.7million visits expected in 2016.

In spite of the strength of Sterling, spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23bn in 2016.

Inbound tourism update from the Office for National Statistics (figures provisional):

  DECEMBER 2015 LAST 3 MONTHS

(OCT – DEC)

YEAR TO DATE
(JAN – DEC 2015)
Visits (000) % change
vs.
Dec 2014
Visits (000) % change
vs. Oct ’14 – Dec ’14
Visits (000) % change
vs.
Jan – Dec ’14
ALL VISITS 2,520 4% 8,470 5% 35,780 4%
Spend (£ million) 1,740 1% 5,140 1% 21,800 0%
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