It is the first time that the money generated from international visits has topped £1bn in February, marking the strongest second month of the year since the global financial crisis began in 2008.
“These figures underline that inbound tourism is an industry in which Britain competes globally and has the potential to grow faster than other sectors of the economy,” said VisitBritain’s chief executive Sandie Dawe.
“It is already the case that tourism was responsible for a third of all jobs created in the past couple of years and continued growth will be a driver to creating more jobs across Britain.
“We are continuing to roll out our promotion of Britain as a great place to visit around the world and these results are a consequence of the hard work that has already been done by VisitBritain in our key markets.”
Key economic driver
The IPS figures point towards double-digit growth from all main journey purposes, with holiday visits up 10 per cent, business travel rising by 15 per cent and those visiting friends and relatives up 19 per cent.
Of the 1.97m overseas visitors who came here in February, those arriving from the high-volume EU15 markets were up by 22 per cent, while visits from non-EU Europe countries saw a 12 per cent rise. ‘Rest of World’ markets - which includes the likes of Australia, Brazil, China and India - were also up 6 per cent.
A strong end to 2012 and start to 2013 has resulted in expenditure being 12 per cent higher and visits 8 per cent higher in the three months to February 2013 than in the same period a year before.
Tourism remains one of the UK’s key economic drivers. This year VisitBritain has forecast overall inbound growth of 3 per cent, with one million additional visitors helping generate an extra £0.5bn in spend.
Champions League final
Meanwhile, London’s hoteliers are scoring a hat-trick next month with increased occupancy, increased average daily rate and a rise in both group and transient bookings as the Champions League final takes place at Wembley Stadium on 25 May.
With no English clubs remaining in this year’s tournament, inbound tourism is guaranteed. Forward-looking data from market intelligence provider TravelClick shows that around half of rooms are filled for both the nights before and of the final (49.8 per cent and 53.1 per cent respectively).
Hoteliers are reaping the benefits of increased demand as the average daily rate shows a rise of 29.4 per cent on the same weekend in 2012.