The UK reached a record 19.8m visits in the seven months to July 2014 – including a record 1.6m incoming holiday visits in July – with inbound visitors spending £11.3bn – up 3 per cent from last year.
Visits from Europe and ‘other countries’ were up 9 and 4 per cent respectively, while business trips grew 5 per cent, holiday visits increased by 9 per cent and visits to friends or relatives grew 9 per cent.
Visits from the ‘rest of world’ markets (outside Europe and North America) reached a seven-month record of 2.94m– up 1 per cent from the January-July 2013 record.
In July alone, the number of visits to the UK by overseas residents rose by 2 per cent compared to July 2013, and for the period from May to July 2014, visits were up 5 per cent, though spend went down 4 per cent.
Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain, said: “Inbound visits to Britain remain on track for a record-breaking year in 2014.
“We are in a position of strength as we approach the peak summer months, with holiday visits driving these records. VisitBritain will continue to bring together tourism businesses to grow Britain’s fifth largest industry and deliver jobs across the country.”
Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, added: “Visitors from overseas just can’t get enough of the UK as tourist numbers continue to rise with visits to its world-class attractions made all the more attractive by July’s spell of fine weather.”
Experts are forecasting a record 2014 based on the inbound tourism figures recorded since the start of the year.
The return of visitors from established European markets such as France and Germany, combined with growing interest from wealthy consumers in emerging economies such as Asia and the Middle East, bode well for the end of the year.