Britain's welcome

Welcome is an important factor in holiday decision making for those planning a trip outside their own country.  Whilst perhaps not the headline pull of heritage, culture or beaches, perceptions of the welcome tourists receive when in Britain are significant. Receiving a good welcome is strongly correlated to being likely to recommend visiting Britain to others, and that the views of friends and family are among the most important influences / inspirations when choosing a holiday.

VisitBritain therefore monitors the actual level of welcome visitors report they experience in Britain, as well as perceptions of Britain’s welcome in key markets around the world to understand both what people think and why. Read the full report (PDF, 1.92MB).

Infographic displaying how welcoming inbound visitors find Britain, showing an increase from 19% in 2009 to 42% in 2014

Perceptions of welcome

In the GfK Anholt Nations Brand Index the UK has consistently been ranked lower for welcome than for other factors relating to tourism or culture. In 2016 the UK was ranked 12th out of 50 destinations for Welcome whilst for Tourism the UK came 5th, and for Culture 5th also. Welcome is one of four aspects for which the UK is ranked outside the top ten in this global study which annually looks at the views of 1,000 people in 20 panel markets. These are people who have not necessarily visited Britain but are representative of the online population in their countries, and of course perceptions are key to holiday destination choices. However, this measure has improved in recent years with the UK rising from 14th place in 2008 to 11th place in 2015, although has dropped one place this year.

Experiences of welcome

Over recent years VisitBritain has sponsored questions on the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) survey of departing overseas residents to monitor how welcome visitors felt in Britain as they ended their trip to fly home. The research focusses on two key questions: How welcome visitors felt in Britain; How likely they were to recommend Britain for a short break or holiday to their friends / family. Visitors were asked to rate both the above on a five point scale where 5 was the most positive (felt extremely welcome / extremely likely to recommend Britain) and 1 the most negative (felt not at all welcome / not at all likely to recommend Britain).


Overall welcome

Ratings of Britain’s welcome have been tracked in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

Bar chart displaying ratings of Britain's welcome in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014

Over two in five visitors (42%) reported feeling ‘extremely welcome’ in Britain in 2014. This is a marked improvement on 30% in 2012 and more than double the proportion who felt extremely welcome in 2009 (19%), as shown in Chart 2. Whilst the proportion indicating they felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ welcome combined has not shifted a great deal in previous years (it has hovered between 81% and 85%) 2014 did see an increase with 89% of leisure visitors giving one of these more positive answers.

Were there any groups of visitors who were more likely to say they felt welcome in Britain than others? The greatest difference here is when looking at residents of a country where English is widely spoken. Virtually half (49%) of those from the USA, Canada, Rep of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand (or UK nationals living overseas) felt extremely welcome compared to 38% of visitors from other countries where English is less likely to be spoken. When considering how to make those who do not speak English more welcome, signs, information, websites and guides in other languages may send out positive signals.


Overall likelihood to recommend

The data on recommending Britain has been collected in the same years from 2010 onwards.

In 2014 half of leisure visitors (51%) would be extremely likely to recommend visiting Britain for a holiday to their friends/family, again an improvement on previous years when between 42% and 45% reported this. Around one in ten (11%) say they are only quite likely or not likely to recommend visiting Britain, slightly fewer than in previous years when between 13% and 15% reported this.

Bar chart displaying overall likelihood to recommend Britain from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 shows growth from 43% in 2010 to 51% in 2014

As in previous years, how welcome people felt remained critical to their likelihood to recommend in 2014. The vast majority (93%) of those who reported feeling very or extremely welcome said they would be very or extremely likely to recommend visiting Britain. However only just over half (56%) of those who felt only quite or not welcome would do so. 


Welcome by market

The chart below shows the proportion of visitors from major markets who felt very or extremely welcome in Britain. 

The pattern is similar to previous years in terms of which markets are most and least positive. Scandinavian markets are amongst the most likely to feel welcome with 96% from Denmark, 94% from Sweden and 90% from Norway feeling ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ welcome. They are more positive than many major European markets, with visitors from France and Italy less likely to say they felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ welcome. As discussed above markets where English is widely spoken are generally positive with 95% from Canada, 93% from the USA feeling ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ welcome. 

It should be borne in mind that the research included all overseas residents, some of whom were UK nationals who live overseas. Some markets specifically analysed above have high proportions of UK nationals (UAE included 33% and Canada, Spain, Australia and France each had between 21% and 19% UK nationals); other markets had fewer than 14% of respondents who were UK nationals.

Bar chart displaying how markets felt about Britain's welcome

There is a similar pattern when looking at patterns by market in the likelihood of visitors to recommend visiting Britain to their friends and family. Scandinavian visitors are amongst the most likely to recommend, with 94% from Denmark, 91% from Sweden and 89% from Norway ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ likely to do so. Visitors from the USA are again also amongst the most positive. Visitors from Asia and the Gulf are again generally less positive, with 87% from Saudi Arabia, 86% from Japan and 84% from UAE ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ likely to recommend visiting Britain to others, although this still indicates that the vast majority enjoyed their trip.

Bar chart displaying likelihood to recommend Britain by market



In 2014 the study ran in several main UK airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Manchester) and involved interviews with 5,093 leisure visitors. Fieldwork took place continuously throughout the year. To ensure consistency of sample and comparable data, data from previous years of research also only include leisure visitors from these airports. Interviews are mainly conducted in English, face to face. In 2012 and 2014 written translations of the questions were also offered in several other languages.