The number of international visits to Britain continue to grow, with visitors spending more and inbound tourism setting new records for visits in the first six months of 2015 and very strong quarter two figures from the Office of National Statistics show.
Britain has welcomed three per cent more visits over the first six months of 2015, beating last year’s record figures for the same period.
Spending in the first six months of 2015 increased by two per cent, contributing £9.5 billion to the UK economy.
The English regions, outside London, were big winners with a six per cent increase in both visits (4,049,000) and spend (£1.858 billion) in quarter two compared to 2014.
Visitors from China and the Gulf Co-operation markets have indicated their growing love of Britain as a holiday destination with record numbers visiting during the first six months of 2015.
Visits from Britain’s two most valuable markets, USA and Germany, spent record amounts in the first six months, with visitors from India, Singapore and Sweden also increased their spending during this period.
Strength in the numbers of visits from growth markets such as China – rising 28 per cent to a record 90,000 in the first half of the year - and the GCC, with record numbers of visits, 282,000 (two per cent), and spend of £677 million (up three per cent) indicates the success of regional VisitBritain campaigns and commercial partnerships in both markets.
The number of visits from the US was up three per cent to 1.4 million compared to the first six months of 2014, with spend up two per cent to £1.3 billion – a record on spend for any first six months, and a sign of the strengthening US economy.
Italians and Belgians have also seen record numbers coming to the UK for the first six months of any year.
While international holiday visits to Britain of 6.5 million were on a par with the record numbers seen during the same period in 2014, those visiting friends and relatives and business visits in the first six months of this year have continued to show impressive growth.
Business visits especially show signs of a strengthening recovery, with visits up 11 per cent in the first six months, setting a new record of 4.4 million, the highest number of business visits ever in the first half of the year.
Spend by this journey purpose has also been strong, up 17 per cent compared to the first six months of 2015 - a record £2.6 billion. VFR visits grew three per cent to 4.8 million in the first six months of 2015, and spending £2.1 billion (up seven per cent).
Business visits posted the highest increase of 11 per cent in the three months of April to June 2015, compared to the same period last year.
Holiday visits rose by three per cent and visits to VFR increased by four per cent.
Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications said: “The UK continues to be a draw to all visitors and the increase in business visits reflects the return to the UK as a place to come and do business.
“It is heartening to see the growth in visitor spend and numbers for quarter two as we continue to compete in an environment of shifting exchange rates.
“It is also positive to see record visits from China and the GCC and a continued return to growth from North America market, our most valuable market, during the first six months of this year.”