However, visitors were spending less. Despite the number of tourists rising four per cent year-on-year spending remained at £21.8bn, which was similar to the figure from 2014.
Visits from North America showed growth of eight per cent last year compared to 2014, with 3.9m visits. It was also a record year for visits from the high volume EU15 markets, with a two per cent increase on 2014 to 19.9m. Visits from the ‘rest of the World’ hit 5.6m, a six per cent increase on 2014.
The types of visits also saw record numbers with the number of holiday visits hitting 13.7m, one per cent up on 2014; those visiting friends and relatives hit 10.5m, up seven per cent on 2014 while business trips increased six per cent on 2014 with 8.7m visits.
People coming for other reasons, defined by the International Passenger Survey as miscellaneous journey purposes, was up five per cent on 2014 with 2.9m visits.
Tourism minister David Evennett said: “Tourism is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries and attracting more international visitors to our shores is not only important for the sector but for the nation's whole economy.”
VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said:“This growth is really fantastic news for the UK economy and shows we’re on track to realise our ambition to grow international visits by more than 20 per cent to 42 million by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend, as well as driving tourism across all our nations and region so its benefits are felt across the whole of Britain.”
VisitBritain launched its largest international marketing campaign for 2016 earlier this month which promotes memorable moments visitors can only experience on a trip to Britain. Latest forecasts from VisitBritain show that the growth in visitor numbers is set to continue this year with 36.7 million visits expected in 2016.