Inbound tourism performance

Tourism’s economic contribution to the UK
Increase in inbound tourism visitors from 2014
Overseas visitors
£700 spent by inbound tourists per second in Britain

Unmatched visitor levels. Uplift across trip types and inbound visitor spend. 2015 saw Britain’s inbound tourism industry thrive.

Welcoming a wealth of worldwide visitors

Inbound tourism to Britain in 2015A major player for Britain’s economy, the tourism sector is worth £126.9 billion with overseas visitor spending reaching £22.1 billion in 2015. What’s more, tourism is responsible for 9% of the UK’s GDP, making it a powerful force in boosting the strength of the UK’s economy.

A bumper year for international visits to our shores, 2015 has set new tourism records and surpassed benchmark figures. Britain saw 36.1 million overseas visitors holiday here in 2015, a rise of 5% on 2014, with an increase across all major journey purposes.

There has been strong growth in overseas visitor numbers in 2016. From January to July, UK visits have experienced a record-breaking seven months, with trips up 2% compared to last year, to 21.1 million whilst visitor spending reached £11.7 billion.

Bringing in benefits and creating opportunities, inbound tourism:
  • Supports 200,000 SMEs across the country, covering retail, tour operators, airlines and attractions
  • Inbound travel contributes £29.8 billion towards the UK economy
  • Is responsible for 9.6% of all UK jobs
  • Is a growing sector – by 2025, there will be an estimated 3.7 million tourism jobs
  • Creates jobs in areas where there are few alternatives for employment – in Cornwall, for example, 13% of jobs are in tourism
  • Creates jobs for those who need it most. In the tourism industry, 28% of those employed are 16-24, as opposed to wider industries, in which only 12% are in the same age bracket

Delivering for the nations and regions of Britain

2015’s inbound visitors came from a range of markets, with visits from France and the USA topping the charts. A record number of visitors came from long haul destinations this year including India, Brazil and the UAE, while the UK has experienced a 46% increase in visitors from China since 2014.

Spending by international tourists outside London also rose, with an overall increase of 4% to £7.5 billion. On a national level, Wales saw a 12% rise in spending and a 4% rise in visitors. Scotland also saw strong growth from 2014 with key markets including France, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy and China all seeing a boost in overseas visitor numbers. And in 2016 so far, Scotland has experienced a 27% increase in overseas visits in Q1 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.

In 2015 more international visitors were eager to explore outside of London, choosing to visit a range of English regions. Trips to the English regions were up 7% to 15.2 million.

Top 5 markets by volume 2015
Top 5 markets by volume 2015
Percentage of total visits by journey purpose
Percentage of total visits by journey purpose
Top 5 markets by value
Top 5 markets by value
Regional visits and spending in numbers
  • Inbound visits to the North East were up by 22%, and spend up 26%
  • The North West saw a 6% increase in visits and a 9% increase in spend
  • The East Midlands and West Midlands saw growth in visits up 10% and 8% respectively
  • The East of England saw visits grow by 4%
  • Visits were up in the South East by 11%, and in the South West by 8% 

Flying successes, improved connections

Better availability and access to direct flights for international visitors undoubtedly contributed to 2015’s record-breaking inbound tourism results with seat capacity to the UK rising 5%. What’s more, Air Passenger Duty for the under-12s was scrapped in May 2015, and for under-16s in May 2016, reducing ticket cost for families and making Britain an even more attractive as a travel destination.

2016 is set to see these figures continue to rise as new routes opened up, including direct flights between Beijing and Manchester four times a week from June 2016. The development of regional connections like this will enable Britain’s tourism industry as a whole to take advantage of the world’s most valuable outbound market. Last year China generated £586 million in visitor spend last year alone, accompanied by a sharp increase in visitor spend from other long haul destinations including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

Rising to the challenge of global competition

Anholt imageBritain is the sixth most desirable country to visit if money were no object, according to 2015’s Anholt Nations Brand Index. However, despite 2015’s promising figures, a number of Britain’s markets still have some way to go to claim true recovery from 2008/09’s recession. For example, despite 10% more inbound volume, Britain is yet to reach the same levels of visits from the US that it enjoyed in 2000.

What’s more, even though the UK welcomed 270,000 visitors from China in 2015 (a 46% increase on 2014), Britain’s inbound Chinese visitor numbers were markedly smaller than those from other key destinations – including Western Europe, America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

However, as of August 2016, the UK was 20% cheaper for visitors from the Eurozone and 19% cheaper for visitors from the USA compared to a year before. Sterling’s falling value against the dollar and euro establishes Britain as an attractive option for tourists looking to maximise what they get for their money, bringing their holiday pounds here and benefitting the British economy.

In 2015, international visitors were more eager to explore Britain than ever before, with a 7% rise in travel outside London.