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 visiting castles, museums or to explore the countryside or coast. In 2011, we sponsored specific questions in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) to find out how many visitors from overseas undertook particular activities whilst in Britain.

The results were as follows:

Activities undertaken by visitors to Britain

Activities asked about Visits which involved activity Nights spent in UK* Amount spent in UK*
  No. of visits  (000) % of all visits % of holiday visits No. of nights (000) £(m)
Visited museums or art galleries 8,299 27% 43% 86,146 £6,255
Went to theatre / musical / opera / ballet 2,796 9% 14% 33,838 £2,748
Visited castles or historic houses 8,874 29% 48% 91,245 £6,506
Visited religious buildings 6,738 22% 35% 74,920 £4,948
Visited parks or gardens 11,081 36% 54% 114,312 £7,826
Went to countryside or villages 5,336 18% 22% 72,418 £4,205
Went to the coast or beaches 3,582 12% 15% 54,292 £2,853
Went shopping 17,668 58% 71% 162,275 £12,092
Went to the pub 13,886 46% 50% 122,645 £9,393
Went to bars or nightclubs 3,842 13% 14% 42,495 £3,412
Attended a festival (e.g. music, food, arts) 949 3% 4% 16,810 £1,003
Went to a live sport event (e.g. at stadium) 1,325 3% 4% 14,673 £1,128
Took part in sports activities 707 2% 3% 10,989 £730

Source: International Passenger Survey, 2011. * By those whose visit included the activity. Nights and spend are not specifically whilst under-taking activity but throughout visit to UK

 

Activities in UK nations and regions

Shopping, going out to eat, drink or socialise

British shops, restaurants and pubs are major draws for international visitors and are included in most holiday visits.

Activity All SW SE LON EE WM EM YKS NW NE WL SC
Shopping 69% 69% 72% 81% 68% 69% 72% 69% 71% 62% 75% 74%
Shopping clothes or accessories 66% 64% 60% 70% 53% 51% 52% 63% 60% 60% 47% 70%
Shopping for souvenirs 58% 54% 57% 60% 42% 49% 45% 55% 43% 66% 57% 68%
Dining in restaurants 79% 71% 59% 83% 69% 58% 80% 70% 68% 79% 78% 89%
Going to pubs 48% 53% 42% 53% 45% 55% 61% 56% 66% 77% 58% 70%
Socialising with the locals 38% 54% 47% 30% 47% 59% 57% 39% 61% 38% 62% 56%
Going to bars/nightclubs 15% 7% 6% 17% 8% 15% 11% 23% 30% 36% 12% 25%

Source: International Passenger Survey 2006-2011

Visiting heritage/culture attractions

London and other urban areas attract many overseas visitors with the most popular holiday activities including visiting famous buildings, parks, gardens, and museums.

Activity All SW SE LON EE WM EM YKS NW NE WL SC
Famous monuments or buildings 64% 55% 57% 70% 48% 45% 38% 44% 36% 41% 46% 73%
Parks or gardens 52% 59% 52% 64% 48% 37% 46% 38% 25% 23% 35% 56%
Castles 34% 38% 42% 30% 24% 21% 17% 36% 8% 30% 37% 67%
Religious buildings 33% 38% 37% 40% 35% 18% 20% 35% 20% 16% 22% 41%
Historic houses 29% 36% 34% 30% 28% 23% 18% 28% 15% 12% 14% 35%
Museums 48% 32% 42% 55% 39% 26% 16% 37% 28% 14% 23% 45%
Art galleries 26% 11% 15% 32% 11% 14% 3% 15% 14% 7% 9% 23%
Theatres 18% 7% 6% 24% 8% 9% 4% 3% 9% 4% 2% 5%
Live music 11% 8% 6% 11% 7% 7% 9% 9% 19% 14% 12% 14%
Festivals 4% 5% 4% 3% 6% 6% 6% 5% 9% 2% 1% 11%
Locations (e.g. literary, film) 3% 4% 2% 3% 4% 2% 2% 6% 2% 1% 1% 3%

Source: International Passenger Survey 2006-2011

Visits to rural/coastal locations & participating in outdoor activities/sports

In more rural areas such as Scotland and the South West holidays are very likely to include visiting castles, villages and walking in the countryside.

Activity All SW SE LON EE WM EM YKS NW NE WL SC
Countryside 20% 51% 38% 9% 31% 25% 34% 55% 22% 24% 49% 52%
Villages 19% 55% 39% 9% 32% 26% 20% 44% 16% 28% 42% 42%
Coast / beaches 11% 48% 37% 3% 16% 9% 14% 22% 14% 31% 53% 35%
National parks 7% 26% 11% 4% 4% 8% 8% 26% 9% 16% 30% 25%
Walk in countryside 24% 58% 45% 12% 27% 33% 32% 37% 24% 26% 50% 52%
Walking by coast 8% 37% 25% 2% 9% 4% 4% 15% 8% 35% 38% 29%
Playing golf 2% 3% 4% 0% 3% 3% 3% 5% 1% 0% 3% 7%
Going cycling 1% 7% 2% 1% 3% 2% 2% 2% 0% 4% 1% 2%

Source: International Passenger Survey 2006-2011

Other activities/attractions

Football, nightlife, contemporary culture and shopping are especially popular in Northern cities which often attract short breaks.

Activity All SW SE LON EE WM EM YKS NW NE WL SC
Going on a tour 25% 23% 23% 26% 14% 13% 19% 18% 19% 8% 19% 36%
Learning activities 9% 20% 17% 8% 6% 3% 4% 4% 10% 12% 8% 8%
Zoos, aquarium, other wildlife 7% 9% 7% 8% 5% 5% 8% 11% 7% 1% 4% 6%
Visiting a spa / beauty centre 3% 6% 2% 2% 3% 3% 4% 5% 4% 1% 1% 4%
Researching ancestry 2% 1% 3% 2% 1% 2% 1% 4% 0% 3% 5% 4%
Going to watch live football (at a stadium) 2% 1% 1% 2% 3% 3% 3% 2% 8% 19% 0% 0%

Source: International Passenger Survey 2006-2011

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.