VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, has welcomed a bumper February with the latest figures from the International Passenger Survey showing a 14 per cent rise in the number of overseas visitors and a nine per cent increase in spend.
The positive results mean this is the first time the month of February has generated more than £1 billion from international visits and is the strongest February since the global financial crisis began in 2008.
The figures are an encouraging start to the year, particularly given the leap month in 2012.
The IPS figures point towards double digit growth from all main journey purposes, with holiday visits up ten per cent, business travel rising by 15 per cent and those visiting friends and relatives up 19 per cent.
Of the 1.97 million overseas visitors who came here in February, those arriving from the high volume EU15 markets were up an encouraging 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 six per cent.
A strong end to 2012 and start to 2013 has resulted in expenditure being 12 per cent higher and visits eight per cent higher in the three months to February 2013 than in the same period a year before.
Over the three months to February 2013 all journey purposes and world regions have shown growth.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive, VisitBritain said: “These are an encouraging set of figures and show sustained growth in the number of inbound visitors and more importantly in the amount they are spending in Britain.
“They 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.
“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.”
Tourism remains one of the UK’s key economic drivers.
This year VisitBritain has forecast overall inbound growth of three per cent, with one million additional visitors helping generate an extra £0.5 billion in spend.