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UK tourism figures hit record levels ahead of London 2012 Olympics

By Luke Nicholls , 14-Jun-2012
Last updated on 14-Jun-2012 at 17:11 GMT

With the London 2012 Olympics just around the corner, hospitality businesses will welcome the news that a record number of internationals flocked to the UK in April, with a significant increase in both the volume and value of inbound tourism compared with the previous year. 

According to VisitBritain’s International Passenger Survey (IPS), April 2012 saw 2.9 million visits from overseas, while the £1.4 billion that was spent during those visits was a 10 per cent increase year-on-year.

“The first few months of the year are traditionally a quiet period for visits to the UK, so to see a record month like this with an increase of 10 per cent in both visits and spend is encouraging,” said Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain.

Holiday visits were also up, by five per cent. The 1.2 million arrivals in April means there has been 3.3 million holiday visits so far this year. This is 7 per cent higher than at the same point in 2011.

Yates added: “Our £25 million GREAT image campaign has been running in key inbound markets around the world since February. That aims to entice a greater number of people to choose Britain for their next holiday and with the London 2012 Games on our horizons, we hope that these positive April figures are an early indication that our message is getting through.

2012 celebrations

“The only place to be in 2012 is here in the UK and the warmest of welcomes awaits international visitors coming here to join in all the wonderful celebrations that are taking place right across the country.”

Visits from vital European high volume and high value markets performed strongly during April, with visits from EU15 markets at a record 1.9 million, up 5 per cent on April 2011. In the first four months of this year, nearly 5.7 million residents of these markets have made a trip to Britain, up 4 per cent on 2011.

These figures come in contrast to recent remarks made by the BHA, which warned delegates at this month’s Hospitality & Tourism Summit that complications and difficulties obtaining a tourist visa are a ‘major deterrent’ for potential visitors to the UK, reducing the impact of tourism as an engine for growth in the UK economy.

Hospitable Cities

Meanwhile, as London basks in the glory of the excitement cast by the Olympics, it may seem that the nation’s other cities are left in the shadows. However, many cities outside the capital have not only started attracting more tourists, but have also seen changes and improvements in their hotel, restaurant and pub and bar offerings.   

In our latest special feature, we pick five thriving cities to put in the spotlight, picking out some facts and figures and highlighting the most recent hotel, restaurant and pub openings to show what has been happening to explain why we feel they are worthy of being dubbed a ‘hospitable city’.

Click here to read our Hospitalble Cities special feature.

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