The latest figures from VisitBritain show the capital remains the top destination choice for tourists from abroad attracting more than 15m overseas visitors' up 3 per cent from 2010.
However the statistics show the dominance of London continues to be challenged by cities in the regions, particularly those in northern, traditionally industrial areas. Both Liverpool and Manchester experienced big jumps in the number of foreign tourists with rises in 2011 of 15 per cent from a year earlier.
Manchester remains the third most popular city after London and Edinburgh but Liverpool has risen up the table to replace Glasgow as the fourth most popular destination. The Merseyside city, which celebrated its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008, attracted 545,000 visitors in 2011.
Patricia Yates, strategy and communications director for VisitBritain said the figures showed it was increasingly true that London was not the only city in the UK that could attract interest on the world stage.
"These results confirm international visitors who might come here because of the global appeal of London are starting to appreciate our vibrant cities outside the capital, and the very different offerings of Edinburgh Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester," she said.
The national tourism agency also confirmed nearly half (44 per cent) of all overseas visits to the UK included a night somewhere outside of the capital.
Oxford experienced a record 2011 in terms of international tourists with 462,000 visiting the University city; up 12 per cent. Cambridge and Bristol also saw visitor jumps while Glasgow and Birmingham experienced falls in international visitor numbers.
Visit Britain is currently running a campaign urging potential visitors to take advantage of the bumper 2012 for tourists with the Olympics and Jubilee celebrations. Earlier this year hospitality businesses were encouraged to make use of a free online toolkit to take part in, and benefit from the ‘GREAT Britain – You’re Invited’ 2012 campaign.
Yates added that this campaign was boosting international tourism and the knock-on benefits. "In such a key year to showcase Britain, and all that our visitors can experience here, VisitBritain’s GREAT image and tactical campaigns in key inbound markets ensures that tourism growth, economic benefits and jobs are delivered right across Britain," she said.
The Top 10 Cities for International Tourists according to the VisitBritain data from the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey are:
- London, up 3 per cent
- Edinburgh, up 3 per cent
- Manchester, up 15 per cent
- Birmingham, down 1 per cent
- Liverpool, up 15 per cent
- Glasgow, down 14 per cent
- Oxford, up 12 per cent
- Bristol, up 14 per cent
- Cambridge, up 5 per cent
- Brighton/Hove, unchanged