Despite an upsurge in visits to the regions, London still came top in an analysis of overnight stays by overseas visitors in UK cities between 2006 and 2009.
Looking at all types of visits, London has an average of 15m international visitors staying in the city each year, followed by Edinburgh with 1.3m.
VisitBritain said Manchester, with its 'ultra-modern new landmark buildings such as the Lowry Centre, a cool art and culture scene and world-class sport' was third with 900,000, while Birmingham’s ‘outstanding and hip arts and exhibitions’ helped attract 737,000 foreign visitors.
'Transformation' of regional cities
Glasgow was found to attract an average of 687,000 visitors while Liverpool, the 2008 European Capital of Culture, attracts 162,000.
Patricia Yates, strategy and communications director for VisitBritain, said: "This survey confirms an astonishing transformation of our industrial heartlands has taken place. They have become dynamic, stylish international destinations that are increasingly beloved of foreign visitors."
VisitBritain’s analysis was based on the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey, which questions 50,000 travellers a year.
Martyn Leek is news editor of BigHospitality's sister publication, M&C Report.