Activities undertaken in Britain

International visitors participate in a number of activities whilst they are in Britain. Visits across the country very commonly include activities such as eating out, shopping and cultural attractions.

Destinations offering rural locations or outdoor activities appeal to particular groups of visitors as do those where it is possible to watch football or other live sport. Those visiting Britain on holiday are often particularly likely to include activities such as dining in restaurants, shopping and sightseeing our famous monuments and buildings.  Each year, we sponsor specific questions in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) to find out how many visitors fro overseas undertook particular activites whilst in Britain.

The Office for National Statistics released detailed final 2017 data on 17 August 2017. 

Visiting famous / iconic tourist attractions

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Sightseeing famous monuments/buildings 11,238 35% £6,590
Going on a guided tour 6,072 15% £5,240
Zoo, aquarium or other wildlife attractions 1,313 4% £870
Visiting literary, music, TV, film locations 2,075 5% £1,750

Exploring history and heritage

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Visiting castles or historic houses 10,410 28% £8,000
Visiting religious buildings 7,674 20% £5,870
Researching ancestry 483 1% £360

Experiencing city life

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Dining in restaurants 19,399 61% £11,550
Shopping 20,985 54% £15,850
Going to the pub 16,355 42% £11,180
Socialising with the locals 12,368 32% £9,120
Visiting parks or gardens 11,873 32% £8,880
Visiting museums or art galleries 10,438 28% £8,130
Going to bars and nightclubs 4,894 12% £4,430
Visiting a spa/beauty centre 913 2% £1,440

Experiencing rural life and scenery

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Going to countryside or villages 4,996 13% £4,540
Going to the coast or beaches 3,797 10% £3,460
Visiting a national park 2,490 7% £2,430

Outdoor leisure pursuits

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Walking in the countryside 6,459 20% £3,900
Going for a walk, hike or ramble 5,935 17% £4,970
Walking along the coast 2,445 8% £1,970
Playing golf 354 1% £480
Fishing 115 <1% £140

Challenge and / or action

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Studied English language 1,080 3% £1,250
Take part in sports activities 707 2% £730
Watersport (eg water-ski, speedboat, sailing) 217 1% £170
Played football 105 <1% £180
Went cycling/mountain biking 57 <1% £60

Attending cultural / music / sports events

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Theatre / musicals / opera / ballet 3,316 9% £3,210
Going to a live music event 2,637 7% £2,610
Going to a live sports event 2,178 6% £2,030
Attend a festival 1,119 3% £1,160
Going to a football match / attending a live football match 800 2% £680
Watch live rugby 92 <1% £80
Watch live horse racing 68 <1% £80
Watch live cricket 45 <1% £80
Watch live golf 18 <1% £30

Our report on inbound tourism to Britain’s nations and regions (PDF, 2.47MB) covers the profile of international visitors in different areas of Britain and the activities they do there.

Source: International Passenger Survey 2006-2017 *By those whose visit included the activity.  Spend is not specifically whilst under-taking activity throughout visit to UK.