A recovery in the number of visitors to the UK has been described as “encouraging”, although the level is still significantly below pre-recession figures.
The Office for National Statistics showed that the number of inbound visitors was 5 per cent higher in July 2010 than in the same month in 2009, with spend also increasing by 2 per cent.
Although tourism visits remained steady for the year as a whole, data for the three months to July 2010 shows an increase of 8 per cent.
Business visits have increase 3 per cent in the first six months of the year, although they too remain lower than before the economic crisis hit.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive for VisitBritain, said the figures proved that international tourism to Britain is continuing to recover.
“Although major challenges remain, and there is some way to go before we reach the record numbers of visits seen back in 2007, it is particularly encouraging to see that inbound holiday tourism began to grow again in the past three months.
Dawe attributes the rise to the “highly attractive” exchange rate for sterling.
“It has now become well established that the value of spending by foreign visitors is growing at a faster rate than the volume of visitors, because the good rate tourists are getting is enabling them to spend more when they get here,” she said.
The comments come as VisitBritain launched its annual review of the UK’s tourism industry, which concluded that the long term prospects for attracting overseas tourists was looking more positive.
While the report forecast that spending by incoming visitors is to rise to £31bn over the next decade, VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues warned that competition from other countries would get tougher.
“In Britain we have for many years treated tourism as a golden goose that will lay eggs without being nurtured or fed. That puts the growth potential of our industry at risk.
“We can only hope that with a new Government the tide may be turning.”
Prime Minister's pledge
Last month Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to “stand fully behind every effort” to boost British tourism, aiming to make the UK one of the top five tourist destinations in the world.
To this end he promised to engage with businesses and local authorities to support the tourism industry at both a local and national level.