US tourists are highest spenders, but visitors declining

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, England

The 'British Brand' remains strong for most US tourists
The 'British Brand' remains strong for most US tourists
US tourists are the highest spenders out of all holidaymakers to the UK, but their numbers continue to decline, according to new data released today by VisitBritain.

Published on the occasion of President Obama’s arrival in the UK, the data reveals that Americans are the third largest visitor group to this country, after France and Germany.

In 2010 there were just under 2.7m visits to the UK by US residents, but visitor numbers have been declining over the past decade, down from a peak of 4.1m in 2000.

However, with US tourists remaining by far the largest holiday spenders – spending £2.1bn in 2010 – VisitBritain is urging the UK’s tourist sector to step up and capture a larger percentage of US holidaymakers.

International competition

​The US now ranks third in terms of arrivals but it was positioned first continuously from 1998 to 2007. Both traditional European competitor destinations and emerging destinations in Asia are increasingly competing with the UK’s share of the American market,” said the agency.

Patricia Yates, director of Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain said: “The challenge now is to rebuild visitor numbers to the high point of 2000.

“Americans who come to Britain once, tend to come again - over half of US holiday visitors to the UK are repeat visitors. We know that perceptions of Britain are consistently strong – we need to change those positive perceptions into a trip here.”

Challenges to overcome

Current barriers for American tourists travelling to the UK include not having a passport (only 33 per cent of Americans hold one), a lack of annual leave, and financial concerns.

Americans rated Britain as less expensive than both France and Italy in a 2010 NBI survey, however Britain was rated with a score of 5.3 on a scale of 1 – 7, where 1 is ‘not expensive’ and 7 is ‘extremely expensive’.

Nevertheless, the ‘British Brand’ remains strong in the minds of Americans, who rank the UK 6th out of 50 on ‘Tourism’ dimensions.

VisitBritain also said that feedback from its travel industry panels in the US in early 2011 have been positive, with increased bookings, and more capacity on air routes to the UK.

“Recapturing this market is a priority for VisitBritain,” it said.

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