New figures from the International Passenger Survey - the key monitor of international tourism to the UK show that during January - October, overseas residents made 27.6 million overnight trips to the UK and spent just over £14 billion. While their spending is four per cent up on the same ten months in 2007, the number of visits remains unchanged.National tourism agency, VisitBritain, believes the figures illustrate the continuing challenges of maintaining Britain’s popularity as a destination in the face of increasing competition - and greater marketing spending - by rival destinations.
The greatest increase in visits has come from the twelve ‘accession’ countries which have seen visits rise by 18 per cent to three million. North American visits have fallen 11 per cent to 3.4 million - largely attributable to the poor economic climate in the US with low levels of consumer confidence and higher costs of aviation. Although the pound began its slide against the Euro and the US dollar in September/October, there is an inevitable lag until the effect of currency changes will begin to show in tourism figures.
VisitBritain chairman, Christopher Rodrigues, says: “It’s no surprise that, like many of us, holidaymakers and business travellers are giving careful consideration to their trips in the current economic climate. In fact these results are slightly better than expected and for Britain, the weakening of the pound against the Euro and the US dollar, could mean increasing numbers of visitors on short shopping or theatre breaks over the festive season.
“With the world heading into recession, the work needed to defend and promote the visitor economy - Britain’s fifth largest industry - is nothing short of vital. Now is the moment to communicate the value for money that Britain now offers to our international visitors.”
VisitBritain and the Tourism Alliance commissioned new research from Deloitte which indicates that the value of the visitor economy to UK plc is £114 billion. Deloitte also suggest that - although the longevity and depth of a potential recession remain unclear - over the next three years, GVA for the visitor economy could be £11 billion lower with 114,000 fewer jobs created as a result of the global economic downturn than would otherwise have been the case.
VisitBritain is calling for more immediate action - a public-private partnership and fund to promote Britain’s value for money in a spring campaign. It will take advantage of hoteliers and carriers delivering great offers as well as sterling depreciating against both the US dollar and the Euro and remind Britons that holidaying at home supports British jobs.