32 million people can't be wrong: ONS numbers show overseas visitor boom

From the British Museum and Big Ben to Stonehenge and Scotland’s whisky distilleries, overseas visitors flocked to Britain in unprecedented numbers last year, according to new figures.

Thanks to a long, hot summer, favourable exchange rates and a post-Olympic “bounce”, the tourism industry enjoyed a record-breaking 32 million visits to Britain in 2013, the highest number since records began and a 5.6 per cent rise on a “disappointing performance” in 2012.

The latest figures, published by the Office of National Statistics, also confirmed what many tourism officials and hotel owners already suspected – booming numbers translated into cold, hard cash with tourism earnings soaring 12.7 per cent to an unprecedented £21 billion.

“We are delighted with these final results for the key post-Olympic year. Every single nation across Britain has seen an uplift in visitor numbers,” said Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of Visit Britain. “And, even more importantly, there have been substantial increases in spending for one of Britain’s largest export industries.”

The figures also show that London overtook Paris as the world’s most popular tourism destination with 16.8 million visits, thanks to a “post-Olympic boom” and a surge in the popularity of the British Royal Family coinciding with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and the birth of Prince George.

A run of “blockbuster” exhibitions in the capital, including Constable at the V&A, Ming at the British Museum and Rembrandt at the National Gallery, also contributed to the boom, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

London Mayor Boris Johnson hailed as a “tribute to the outstanding mix of culture, art, music and sport to be found” in the capital. However an aide for Anne Hidalgo, the new Socialist mayor of the French capital, told the Evening Standard: “The new British figures will be analysed, but they sound fanciful. Visitor numbers to Paris are impressive and unrivalled.”

Throughout the rest of Britain visitor number in the rest of England, Scotland and Wales grew by as much as 10 per cent, reversing falls, while spending growth outpace the capital.

Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool were the most popular UK towns outside of the capital, but the tourist boom has been felt on even the farthest-flung extremities of the UK. On Islay in the Inner Hebrides Simon Coughlin, chief executive of Bruichladdich, a small single malt whisky distillery, said “there’s no question” the tourist boom had spread out to the furthest reaches of the British Isles.

He said: “Our distillery tours and Islay generally are busier than ever. Scottish whisky is known the world over and people want to see where it’s made, fall in love with the country and come back time and time again.”

While at Stonehenge English Heritage reported an 18.9 per cent rise is visitors last year. A spokesman said: “We had a fantastic year, with more than half of all visitors to Stonehenge coming from abroad… we saw increasing visitor numbers at Hadrian’s Wall and Tintagel Castle, indicating that discovering England’s rich history is a key part of many people’s itinerary.”

Bernard Donoghue, director of ALVA, said that “outdoor attractions, such as stately homes, gardens and zoos beyond the capital did much better than previous years”. He put this down to a “long, hot summer” and a “favourable” exchange rate against the euro which made Britain “an affordable destination” for French and German visitors.

He added: “The rest of the country outside of the capital is set to get an even bigger slice of the tourism cake in future. On their first visit to the UK tourists pretty much exclusively head to London, but our research shows that on their second and third visits, they are actually more likely to visit the rest of the country, to explore its heritage history and countryside.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower