VisitBritain/VisitEngland reports on year of tourism growth

09 October 2018

Visitors spent more than £1 billion in Britain last year as a result of activity by national tourism agency VisitBritain/VisitEngland latest figures show. 

This means that for every pound invested in the agency, visitors spent £25 in Britain. As well as the UK Government investment, the agency had attracted £13 million of investment in cash and in-kind from commercial partners and delivered £2 million profit from its online shop – money which is reinvested into its activities to grow the value of tourism.

The results, announced today (Tuesday 9 October) at the agency’s annual review, come on the back of a strong 2017 for inbound tourism. VisitBritain forecasts that it will beat its ambition of 40 million inbound visits by 2020 this year. Brits have also been taking more holidays at home with visits and spend up by 6% in 2017. 

UK Minister for Tourism Michael Ellis said: 

“Britain’s tourism industry is booming. Last year was a very strong year for domestic and inbound tourism, with tens of billions of pounds going into our economy. The Government, alongside VisitBritain/VisitEngland, is working with the sector to build on this success with an emphasis on attracting major business events and investing in local tourism projects through the Discover England Fund.

 "Tourism shows the world the best of our nation. As we approach the UK's exit from the European Union, we are absolutely committed to helping the industry continue to grow, promoting the country as a must-visit destination and ensuring that local communities benefit."

British Tourist Authority Chairman Steve Ridgway CBE, former Chief Executive of Virgin Atlantic Airways, said tourism in the UK was one of our growth industries, growing at a rate faster than the digital industries and continuing to attract overseas investment.

Mr Ridgway said:

“Tourism is the country’s shop window to the world. A £127 billion powerhouse which continues to deliver for the British economy, creating jobs and driving economic growth right across the country. Our third largest service export, tourism needs no trade deals to prosper. Britain is already competing strongly in our most valuable visitor source markets such as the US and in markets that are crucial for our future including China.”

Mr Ridgway said that while we look back and celebrate, it was important to take a clear-eyed view of the future too. 

“We face a number of significant challenges, the most important the UK’s departure from the European Union. Whilst we address the initial fluctuations in currency and EU worker concerns, we soon will need to deal with the longer-term realities. We want to ensure that the future relationship keeps our borders as frictionless as possible for visitors, our aviation as connected as ever, and our economic stability on track – because tourism depends on this.”

Domestic tourism in England had also seen success from the growth in holidays to more frequent short-breaks. Domestic tourism accounted for almost 80% of all tourism activity and £70 billion was spent by domestic tourists in England last year, supporting millions of jobs.

“While these are good results we still see a trade deficit with more spent overseas by British tourists than inbound visitors spend in Britain, and many young people finding it easier to jump on a cheap flight and head elsewhere than discover this country. We want to reverse this, to make our industry more productive and see even stronger growth.

“And there are real opportunities to improve tourism’s productivity and to extend the season year-round. Addressing these would drive additional visitor spending and also help with structural issues faced by small businesses including staff retention,” he said.

Mr Ridgway is leading the tourism industry’s bid for a sector deal under the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy which would help the industry face Brexit with increased resilience while boosting its productivity.

“A sector deal would spell a step-change in how we underpin the success of tourism for a generation. From fixing issues including skills and productivity to building stronger tourism destinations up and down the country – we are ambitious and ready to deliver.” 

He said the Discover England Fund, launched by the UK Government to develop world-class bookable tourism products across England to attract the visitors of the future, had launched 22 new schemes during the year with 12 in excess of £1 million.

The agency had also seen success in securing more international business events for the UK, growing this valuable economic sector and driving more business throughout the year and across the country. Just last week VisitBritain brought Chinese business events buyers here to do business, demonstrating to the world’s most valuable outbound market why the UK should be their destination of choice.

As the agency looked ahead to its 50th anniversary in 2019 Mr Ridgway said the priority was to continue to work in partnership with industry, Government and destinations to ensure tourism’s future resilience, growth and economic delivery across the UK.


Notes to editors:
The £1 billion additional spend figure refers to the 2017-18 financial year. It is calculated using a UK Government approved, externally audited, evaluation methodology.  

• VisitBritain promotes Britain internationally as a visitor destination as part of the UK Government’s GREAT campaign.

• The VisitBritain/VisitEngland annual review is a showcase of the agency's work during the 2017-18 financial year. It differs from the Annual Report and Accounts which is a statutory annual requirement.

In 2017 there were a record 39.2 million inbound tourism visits to the UK, up 4% on the previous year, with overseas visitors spending £24.5 billion, up 9%. VisitBritain is expecting 40.9 million inbound visits in 2018 with overseas visitors forecast to spend £26.3 billion.

• For more information about the Discover England Fund see and on the Tourism Sector Deal bid:

• VisitBritain/VisitEngland is the trading name of The British Tourist Authority, the national tourism agency.

Annual Review launch details:

• VisitBritain/VisitEngland’s annual review launch is taking place today (Tuesday 9 October 2018) from 08.30 until 10.00 at etc.venues County Hall, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 7PB.

• The VisitBritain/VisitEngland annual review website gives details of the agency’s activities and achievements and will be live from 00.01 Tuesday 9 October.

• Media is welcome to attend the event and to send a photographer/camera. Please contact Tracey Edginton if you wish to attend or to arrange an interview – 020 7578 1098 / 07974 111 076