Almost 30 million international visitors in the UK spent over £14 billion during 2005 - a new record, being welcomed by tourism agency, VisitBritain.Provisional data from the Office for National Statistics for January - December 2005 indicates that overseas residents made 29.95 million visits to the UK - a +8% increase on 2004 - and spent £14.3 billion (up 9%).
The increase is in large part due to double digit growth from the Rest of World region, where visits rose +18% to 6.4 million.
While the amount of time international visitors spend on a visit in the UK has remained constant over the past five years at eight days on average, the amount of money they spend has steadily fallen by 7.3% (to £466) since a high of £503 in 2000. *
Tom Wright, VisitBritain chief executive, says:
“This is certainly a strong result for Britain’s £74 billion visitor economy and another step forward in achieving our target of raising its value towards £100 billion. While many businesses faced a difficult summer, there are clear signs of recovery with a record 12.1 million customers spending over £375 million in London’s theatre-land last year - a third of them from overseas. We face a challenge in encouraging visitors to stay longer and spend more while they are here. In the face of an increasingly competitive global tourism environment, we must continue to explore ever-more creative means of attracting international visitors to Britain.”
The figures highlight a significant opportunity for the industry. Growth rates of visitor numbers from the Rest of World region (including China, India, Eastern European and South East Asian countries) are already outpacing many of Britain’s traditional tourism markets.
To ensure inbound tourism from these countries reaches its full potential, VisitBritain will advance the country’s position around the world with plans to increase its investment in 11 new and developing markets, including Mexico for 2006/07.
Based on 2004 data, visits from ten of VisitBritain’s new markets together have grown 35% - and spending by 29% - in a single year. South East Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe offer some of the best prospects for high value visits and the tourism industry cannot ignore India’s 53% year-on-year increase in visitor spending.
Tom Wright continues: “The inbound tourism industry is a vital component of Britain’s national economy. International consumers spend £14 billion ‘buying’ British tourism - that’s more than they spend buying crude oil, vehicles, or food, beverages and tobacco from us.
Although our marketing activities already produce an overall return of £47 for every £1 invested by Government, hitting our £100billion target by 2010 will be a tough challenge, against some formidable competitors.
Government and the commercial sector must continue to make long-term investment if we are fully to realise the potential of the visitor economy.”