Boost recorded in UK tourism figures


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Tourism chiefs have shown how the UK can benefit from the Olympics as figures demonstrated that overseas visitors flocked to the UK even before the Games.

Foreign residents made 3.3% more trips to the UK last year than in 2010, staying longer and spending more money, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed.

These overseas visitors stayed for 3.2% more nights last year than in 2010 and spent 6.5% more money during their trips.

Foreign residents made 15.3 million overnight visits to London in 2011, an increase of 584,000 (or 4%) from 2010, and spent an estimated £9.4 billion on visits to the capital.

Overnight visits to the rest of England grew by 3.4% to 13 million in 2011 while those to Scotland and Wales were broadly unchanged at 2.3 million and 0.9 million respectively.

UK residents made 2.3% more visits abroad, but they stayed for 2% fewer nights and spent 0.4% less money on these visits in 2011, compared with 2010.

The average visit by UK residents to Europe last year grew by 3.5%, while those to North America grew by 0.4% and those to other countries fell by 2.6%.

At a media conference in London today, VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe said overseas visitor numbers to the UK for the first five months of this year were up 7%, and their spending up 5%, compared with the January-May 2011 period.

She said the Olympics and the four-year tourism campaign being mounted by VisitBritain would, it was hoped, boost overseas visitor numbers by 4.6 million by 2015, with spending by these visitors rising by £2.3 billion.

Ms Dawe went on: "Billions around the world will watch the Olympics and we aim to benefit from this massive global exposure.

"This will be the first social media Games. Everyone is a reporter now. We hope those who visit will be sending back the message 'Having a great time'."

Tourism Minister John Penrose said: "I am sure the Olympics are going to be a wonderful sporting event and they will give people overseas a sense of what Britain is all about.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to get people to come here next year and the year after."