Visitor Economy Facts - Updated May 2015

Value of tourism
The big picture

Tourism’s central role in creating new jobs across Britain has been underlined in a report from Deloitte – ‘Tourism: jobs and growth’, commissioned by VisitBritain.

Since 2010 tourism has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms, responsible for one-third of the net increase in UK jobs between 2010 and 2012.

The report forecasts that the tourism economy will be worth around £127 billion this year (2013), equivalent to 9% of the UK’s GDP. It supports over 3.1 million jobs, that’s 9.6% of all jobs and 173,000 more than in 2010. The sector is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 3.8% through to 2025 - significantly faster than the overall UK economy (with a predicted annual rate of 3% per annum) and much faster than sectors such as manufacturing, construction and retail.

Britain will have a tourism industry worth over £257 billion by 2025 – just under 10% of UK GDP and supporting almost 3.8 million jobs, which is around 11% of the total UK number.

The report found that the marginal revenue required to create a job in UK tourism is estimated to be around £54,000.  For every 1 per cent increase in total expenditure in UK tourism, it might be expected that full time equivalent employment will increase by 0.89 per cent.

Tourism’s impact is amplified through the economy, so its impact is much wider than just the direct spending levels. Deloitte estimates the tourism GVA multiplier to be 2.8 – meaning that for every £1,000 generated in direct tourism GVA there is a further £1,800 that is supported elsewhere in the economy through the supply chain and consumer spending.

Tourism spending in 2013 is forecast to reach £113bn, of which £24bn will come through spending by international visitors on visits to the UK and fares paid to UK carriers and £89bn will come through spending by domestic residents.

Inbound tourism will continue to be the fastest growing tourism sector – with spend by international visitors forecast to grow by over 6% a year in comparison with domestic spending by UK residents at just over 3%. The value of inbound tourism is forecast to grow from over £21bn in 2013 to £57bn by 2025, with the UK seeing an international tourism balance of payments surplus in 2023, almost forty years since the UK last reported a surplus.

NBI diagram
Britain's image overseas

In the 2014 Anholt GfK Nations Brand Index the UK retained 3rd place as a 'nation brand' behind Germany and the USA. Rankings are out of 50 nations, including leading and emerging economies, and are produced by collating the views of 20,000 people around the world each year.

The overall nation brand is made up of scores for six dimensions - Tourism, Culture, People, Immigration-Investment, Exports and Governance, as shown on the diagram to the right. Looking at the dimensions relevant for tourism the UK ranked 3rd out of 50 nations in terms of a 'Tourism' brand and 5th for 'Culture'.

Our strongest 'Tourism' dimensions are for our 'vibrant city life and urban attractions', ranked 4th and being 'rich in historic buildings and monuments', ranked 5th.  Aspirations to visit the UK were also strong with the UK ranked 5th as a place people ‘would like to visit if money was no object’.  Our strongest 'Culture' element is for 'contemporary culture', ranked 3rd with our 'cultural heritage' ranked 7th out of 50.

In 2014, the UK saw an improvement of one place for ‘excels at sport’ to 4th while 'natural beauty' held a position of 20th.  Perceptions of the UK welcome return to pre Games position of 13th.

Inbound Tourism to the UK

The record 34.4 million overseas visitors who came to the UK in 2014 spent a record £21.8 billion. These figures represent a 5% increase in volume and 3% (nominal) increase in value compared with 2013.

In 2013 the UK ranked eighth in the UNWTO international tourist arrivals league, a position held for a number of years, behind France, USA, Spain, China, Italy, Turkey and Germany.  The UK accounted for 2.8% of global arrivals in 2013.

In 2013 the UK was in ninth place in the international tourism earnings league (in recent years the UK's highest rank was fifth in 2005 and 2006) behind the USA, Spain, China, France, Macao, Italy, Thailand and Germany according to UNWTO figures.

The UK accounted for 3.4% of international tourism receipts in 2013.

In 2014 France, Germany and the USA were the top three markets in terms of number of visits to the UK accounting for nearly one-in-three visits.  The top three markets measured in terms of visitor spend were USA, Germany and France, accounting for a little over one-quarter of all overseas visitor spend.

London accounts for 54% of all inbound visitor spend, the rest of England 33%, Scotland 8% and Wales 2%.

A separate page is dedicated to covering key Inbound Tourism Facts

GB Domestic Overnight Tourism

In 2012 GB residents took:
- 57.7 million holidays of one night or more spending £13.8 billion
- 18.9 million overnight business trips spending £4.5 billion
- 45.1 million overnight trips to friends and relatives spending £5.1 billion

Overall the number of domestic overnight trips taken in 2012 was 1% lower than in 2011, while total spending increased by 6% in nominal terms. For detailed GBTS data see the VisitEngland website


In 2012, average room occupancy for all serviced accommodation throughout the UK was 66% (up 2 percentage points from 2011) according to the UK Occupancy Survey.  Average bedspace occupancy was 50% (an increase of 2 percentage points on 2011).

According to Eurostat the number of bedspaces (that is the total number of persons who can stay) in UK 'hotels and similar establishments' was 1,411,000 in 2011.

Furthermore, Eurostat estimate that the number of bedspaces in 'other collective accommodation establishments' (including holiday dwellings and tourist campsites) in the UK was 1,861,000 in 2011.

In total therefore the UK has a tourist accommodation 'bedspace' stock capable of sleeping around 3.272 million people.

Figures from TRI Hospitality Consulting confirm that one of the biggest changes in the UK accommodation stock in the past two decades has been the increasing number of branded budget hotel rooms.  In 1993 there were 10,555 such rooms whereas at the end of 2010 there were 114,974. 

ALVA 2012 Attractions data

The table to the right shows the top five attractions in terms of visitor admissions in 2012 based on figures from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. 

In 2009 the number of inbound visitors who visited a museum was 7.7 million, with 4.2 million visiting an art gallery.  Visiting heritage attractions is also a very popular activity for inbound visitors with 5.8 million visiting a castle, 5 million visiting historic houses and 6.4 million visiting religious buildings or monuments. Read more