Tourists to UK forecast to spend record level in 2018

It has been a record year-to-date for inbound tourism to the UK, with growth set to continue in 2018 according to forecasts from national tourism agency VisitBritain.

Overseas visits to the UK are forecast to break through the 40 million mark for the first time in 2018, reaching 41.7 million, up 4.4% on 2017 which is expected to see 39.9 million visits. Spending by overseas visitors to the UK is forecast to reach £26.9 billion in 2018, up 6.8% on 2017 which is expected to total £25.1 billion by year end.

Inforaphic showing the number of overseas visits to UK forecasts to grow. 2018, 41.7 million. 2017, 39.9 million. 2016, 37.6 million. 2015, 36.1 million. 2014, 34.4 million. 2013, 32.7 million. 2012, 31.1 million

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of the UK's most valuable export industries. It is also a fiercely competitive global industry and these results not only demonstrate Britain’s continued ability to compete internationally for visitors, they are testament to tourism’s importance as a driver of economic growth. “We are working with partners across the world to tell customers of experiences they can only have in Britain and encourage them to book a trip now. We have seen good growth this year from the US and China, and are developing new products that make it easier for overseas visitors to book and explore all of Britain.”

VisitBritain promotes the UK internationally as a visitor destination as part of the UK Government’s global GREAT Britain campaign. The UK was ranked third for tourism globally in the 2017 Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index (NBI) published last month, equalling its highest rank ever and up two places from last year. The NBI considered attributes including historic buildings and monuments, having a vibrant city life and natural beauty. When considering its overall brand, the UK ranked third out of 50 nations, a position it has held since 2011. Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.

Notes to editors

Latest official inbound tourism statistics

  • The latest official statistics for inbound tourism to the UK are for January to September 2017. These show that there were a record 30.2 million overseas visits in the first nine months of this year, up 7% on 2016. Overseas visitors to the UK spent a record £18.7 billion from January to September this year, up 9% on the same period in 2016.
  • There have been 3.8 million visits from North America from January to September this year, up 14% on 2016.
  • Inbound visits from EU countries, the UK’s largest visit-generating region, hit a record 19.6 million visits from January to September, 4% up on last year.
  • There were 5.0 million visits from the ‘Rest of the World’ region in the first nine months of 2017, which includes markets such as Australia, China, the Gulf markets and India, up 15% on last year.

What’s on in Britain 2018

  • London kicks off 2018 with Lumiere London, the night festival of light, in January.
  • Bristol is opening a new museum, Being Brunel, in early 2018 and London’s V&A Museum is opening an outpost in Dundee in the second half of the year.
  • It will be a big year for culture in Liverpool as it celebrates its 10th anniversary of being named European Capital of Culture. The city will welcome the Terracotta Warriors to the World Museum from February to October 2018.
  • Newcastle and Gateshead will host The Great Exhibition of the North, celebrating the cities’ culture, art and design from June to September.
  • Scotland heralds 2018 as the Year of Young People, with events including the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo and Speyside Whisky Festival.
  • The Tall Ship Races Sunderland in July will see 80 vessels arriving for four days of celebrations before the ships sets sail for Esbjerg, Denmark. 
  • Wales celebrates the Year of the Sea, and will hold its annual literary and arts festival, The Laugharne Weekend, in April, followed by the Festival of Voice in Cardiff in June. The Big Cheese Festival takes place in Caerphilly in June, with a Seafood Festival in Cardigan Bay in July.
  • The last season of Game of Thrones will be filmed in Northern Ireland, on locations including Giant's Causeway (The Iron Island) and the Dark Hedges (The King’s Road), along with the original filming locations of Winterfell.