UK continues to attract record numbers of international tourists thanks to cheap pound sterling

Around 8.3 million visits to the UK were recorded during the first quarter of 2017, and spending rose by 16 per cent on the same period last year

Josie Cox
Business Editor
Thursday 13 July 2017 11:37 BST
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Visits from the US, which is the UK’s most valuable market, grew by 16 per cent to 641,000
Visits from the US, which is the UK’s most valuable market, grew by 16 per cent to 641,000 (PA wire)

After a record 2016, the number of people visiting the UK from abroad continued to rise at a ferocious pace during the first three months of 2017.

Around 8.3 million visits to the UK were recorded during the first quarter of the year, marking a 10 per cent rise on the same period last year and the best ever first quarter of any year in history.

Tourists were particularly helped by a weak pound. Spending rose by 16 per cent to £4.4bn.

VisitBritain, which compiled the figures, said that the UK saw a record 54,000 visits from China between January and March, up 27 per cent, with visitors spending from that country hit a record £91m.

Visits from the US, which is the UK’s most valuable market, grew by 16 per cent to 641,000. Those visitors also spent a record £604m, up 29 per cent on the same period a year earlier.

“It is very encouraging to see such strong growth from some of our largest and most valuable markets, including France and the US, as well as markets that are important for our future, such as China,” said VisitBritain director Patricia Yates.

She said that she anticipates a “strong summer holiday season”.

The UK has proved particularly popular among cash-conscious international travellers since the pound’s sharp devaluation against the dollar and the euro in the aftermath of last June’s Brexit vote.

It’s still around 13 per cent lower against both the dollar and euro since the referendum, particularly enhancing the UK’s appeal as a shopping destination.

More overseas tourists came to the UK during the whole of 2016 than during any year in history and payment provider Worldpay in January said that spending by Chinese visitors had increased by 24 per cent year-on-year over the Christmas period.

Visits from Australia also set a record for the first three months of 2017, rising 10 per cent to 174,000. Visits from France rose 9 per cent to 991,000, spend increased by 15 per cent to £321m, and those from Belgium, Denmark, India and Japan also increased sharply.

Figures from business intelligence provider ForwardKeys showed that overall, bookings for international arrivals to the UK during the summer are currently tracking 9 per cent ahead of the same period last year indicating that the influx will likely continue.

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