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 from overseas undertook particular activites whilst in Britain.

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 19,367 47% £16,160
Going on a guided tour 6,647 16% £6,186
Visiting literary, music, TV, film locations 2,241 5% £2,108
Zoo, aquarium or other wildlife attractions 1,313 4% £872

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 11,037 28% £9,204
Visiting religious buildings 8,147 21% £6,711
Researching ancestry 483 1% £362

Experiencing city life

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Dining in restaurants 25,689 63% £20,523
Shopping 22,402 55% £18,674
Going to the pub 16,881 41% £12,394
Socialising with the locals 12,867 31% £10,237
Visiting parks or gardens 12,581 32% £10,295
Visiting museums or art galleries 11,198 29% £9,476
Having a traditional afternoon tea 5,604 14% £5,927
Going to bars and nightclubs 5,107 12% £5,082
Visiting a spa/beauty centre 1,013 2% £1,718

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 5,234 13% £5,154
Going to the coast or beaches 3,867 10% £3,842
Visiting a national park 2,604 7% £2,729

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 8,751 21% £7,790
Going for a walk, hike or ramble 6,065 17% £5,317
Walking along the coast 4,584 11% £4,258
Going for a run 2,042 5% £2,259
Playing golf 367 1% £525
Fishing 112 <1% £140

Challenge and / or action

Activity asked about Number of visits that involved activity (000) % of all visits Amount spent in UK (£m)*
Activities to learn a new skill 971 2% £1,127
Take part in sports activities 717 2% £776
Studied English language 614 2% £940
Watersport (eg water-ski, speedboat, sailing) 212 1% £172
Played football 109 <1% £199
Went cycling/mountain biking 57 <1% £63
Played rugby 27 <1% £18
Played cricket 22 <1% £21

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 3,610 9% £3,898
Going to a live music event 2,797 7% £3,030
Going to a live sports event 2,248 5% £2,309
Watch live football 1,505 4% £1,368
Attend a festival 1,192 3% £1,426
Going to a football match / attending a live football match 814 2% £722
Watch live cricket 225 1% £349
Watch live rugby 203 <1% £160
Watch tennis 166 <1% £218
Watch live horse racing 78 <1% £118
Watch live motor sport (including motorbike) 70 <1% £35
Watch live golf 61 <1% £129
Watch a live marathon 51 <1% £54

Available to download: our report on Activities in Britain’s nations and regions (PDF, 14.09MB) covers the profile of international visitors in different areas of Britain and the activities they do there.

Source: International Passenger Survey 2006-2019 *By those whose visit included the activity.  Spend is not specifically whilst under-taking activity throughout visit to UK.