VisitBritain forecasts record year for inbound tourism in 2020

18 December 2019

Forecasts from VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, indicate that 2020 is set to be a record year for inbound tourism to the UK.

Spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach a record £26.6 billion in 2020, a 6.6% increase on spending in 2019 which is expected to top out at £25 billion.

The number of overseas visits to the UK is forecast to rise in 2020 to 39.7 million, the highest ever, and up 2.9% on 2019 which is expected to see about 38.5 million visits by year end.

Looking longer-term, during the last decade inbound tourism visits to the UK have grown 33% when comparing 2010 to the 2020 forecast and spending by 58%.

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: 

Tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries and these results show our continued ability to attract international visitors in a fiercely competitive global market. We are seeing success in growing tourism from our long-haul, high-spending markets including the US, our largest and most valuable inbound market, and from markets that are crucial for our future such as China.

Working with partners globally we are telling customers about experiences they can only have here, converting the inspiration to visit into bookings and driving growth from tourism across the nations and regions, boosting local economies.”

In 2020 work to embed the Tourism Sector Deal, announced by the UK Government in June 2019, is set to drive major investment and economic delivery, addressing issues from skills and productivity to building stronger tourism destinations across the country.

VisitBritain is promoting a message of welcome globally through its ‘Find Your GREAT Britain, I Travel For…’ campaign, telling the story of people and places and encouraging visitors to travel further, stay longer and to book a trip right now. It is also working with the tourism industry to inform European visitors about the practicalities of travel and to encourage visits post-Brexit.

Data from ForwardKeys shows that forward flight bookings overall to the UK from December 2019 to May 2020 are up 5% compared to the same period last year. Forward bookings to the UK from China and South Asia are particularly strong, up 33% and 22% respectively.

Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy, boosting economic growth across its nations and regions. The industry is also a job creator, for every 22 inbound visits from China for example, one job is created in Britain’s tourism industry. 

Notes to editors

  • At the time of writing, the latest official statistics for inbound tourism to the UK were for January to August 2019. These show that there were 26.1 million overseas visits to the UK in the first eight months of 2019, up 2% on 2018. Overseas visitors to the UK spent £16.5 billion from January to August 2019, up 5% on the same period in 2018.
  • August 2019 was the highest month on record for both inbound visits to the UK and for overseas visitor spending. There were a record 4.1 million visits to the UK in August 2019, up 7% on August 2018. Overseas visitors spent a record £3.1 billion in the UK in August 2019, up 13%.

What’s on in 2020

A GREAT year to get outdoors - also celebrating music festivals and parks

  • Wales celebrates its ‘Year of the Outdoors’ in 2020, highlighting outdoor pursuits, sports and adventure, wellbeing and mindfulness – promoting the 870-mile Coastal Path (a continuous walking path around its entire coastline); its three national parks; 600 castles; its Outstanding Areas of Natural Beauty and Dark Sky Reserves.
  • Scotland celebrates its ‘Year of Coasts & Waters’, highlighting its stunning shorelines, lochs and coastal traditions. As one of the few cities in Europe where Bottle-Nose dolphins are visible, Aberdeen will host DolphinFest in April 2020, with city-wide pop-up activities, art commissions and beach clean-ups.
  • Cumbria is launching the Connecting Cumbria Hidden Coast Project in autumn 2020, giving visitors access to a secluded stretch of north-west England’s coastline. Nature lovers can discover spectacular sea stacks and smugglers coves, or enjoy cycling trails for all ages.
  • A bumper once-in-a-lifetime party with Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary festival
  • Opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater in summer 2020, the first new RHS garden for almost 20 years. It will be the largest gardening project in Europe, also restoring Worsley New Hall to its former glory, adding a vast walled garden and a modern welcome building, as well as restoring the remaining historic buildings.
  • Nature 2020 is a year-long series of eco events celebrating Brighton and Lewes’ ‘Living Coast’, to raise awareness of local nature reserves and conservation.
  • South Downs National Park 10th anniversary.

A big year for national celebrations across the UK in 2020 including:

  • 75th anniversary of VE Day in May: With celebrations and community events across the extended three-day weekend beginning 8 May 2020 to remember the contribution of British, Commonwealth and Allied Armed Forces personnel and citizens who contributed to the war effort and safeguarded the home front.

Celebrating our literary heritage in 2020

  • 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth. The Wordsworth Trust has announced plans for Reimagining Wordsworth, a £6.2 million project to bring Wordsworth’s story into the 21st century. Fans can mark it with a pilgrimage to the Lake District’s Wordsworth Museum.
  • 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ death. Visitors can mark the anniversary with a trip to see the Dickens memorabilia at the Victoria & Albert Museum, visit his former London home as well as the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace museum in Hampshire.


  • 100 years since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb is being marked with an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London - exhibiting more than 150 pieces from the world-famous site from 2 November 2019 to 3 May 2020, at Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh.
  • In spring 2020 Tate Modern will open a new Andy Warhol exhibition.
  • The ‘Game of Thrones’ Studio Tour opens in Northern Ireland in spring 2020, giving visitors a chance to step into the heart of ‘The Seven Kingdoms’.
  • In September 2020 the ‘Mayflower 400’ anniversary celebrations begin, marking the anniversary of the voyage of the American Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. Eleven locations in England are taking part in festivals of light, food and culture, each with ties to The Mayflower ship or its passengers.
  • Upfest: Europe’s largest street art festival returns to Bristol in summer 2020.
  • Liverpool Biennial: from July to October 2020. One of the UK’s largest festivals of contemporary visual art.

Sporting highlights in 2020:

  • The Fife Regatta in June 2020 will see a spectacular fleet of famous Fife Yachts return to their birthplace on the Clyde to participate in a unique regatta.
  • The Emirates FA Cup Final comes to Wembley in May. The UEFA Euro 2020 runs from June to July, with games being held across the continent for the first time in the competition’s 60-year history, with 12 host cities and the final in London.
  • Following England’s 2019 Cricket World Cup success, the Hundred is a new 100-ball cricket league. The tournament will run at grounds across England and Wales between mid-July and early September 2020.


See for more information of What’s On in 2020.