An influx of visitors from Western Europe boosted tourist numbers last autumn, official figures showed yesterday.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed there was a 19 per cent increase in visits by Western Europeans to the UK in November 2003, which helped offset a 3 per cent downturn in North American tourists.

Between September and November last year, the number of overseas visitors rose by 7 per cent to a record 6.32 million compared with the same period in 2002. Spending by foreign tourists rose 1 per cent to £3.05bn.

The number of overseas visits made to the UK between January and November last year reached 22.75 million, a 2 per cent increase on the first 11 months of 2002.

But with North American numbers down 7 per cent for the same period, foreign tourist spending in the UK for the first 11 moths of 2003 was only 1 per cent higher at £10.79bn.

Transatlantic trips have been in decline since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, which dissuaded many Americans from travelling abroad. They may also have been put off by the fall in the value of the dollar, which makes British prices disproportionately high for visiting Americans.

Tom Wright, the chief executive of the website VisitBritain, said: "A total of 6.3 million overseas visitors spending more than £3bn is excellent news and reflects Britain's position as one of the most popular destinations for tourists.

"Our current European short breaks campaign, which showcases the very best of our award-winning attractions, hotels and varied cultural life in 19 cities, has contributed to a big rise in the number of visits from Western Europe.

"There have been more than one million hits to our websites, and there are still three months of the campaign to run."