Tourists from the US and Gulf states are top shoppers

Spending by foreign tourists visiting the UK was higher in the second half of 2016 as the exchange rate remained favourable for inbound visitors, new figures show.

Travellers from the US dominated spend, while visitors from the six main Gulf states were among the top 10 highest spenders per visit.

Visitors from the Nordics, Benelux countries, US, Italy and Spain rank eating out highly – their restaurant bills, as a proportion of total spend, were significantly higher than the global average.

Meanwhile, travellers from Denmark, South Korea and Israel spend significantly more on live entertainment, relative to total spend, than the global average.

Those from China, Hong Kong and Thailand like to buy UK products, with retail accounting for more than half of the value of all transactions made.

Latin American visitors enjoy the UK’s tourist attractions and exhibitions, spending a higher proportion than the global average on culture.

The research about the spending habits of UK inbound visitors is revealed in a report compiled by UKinbound and VisitBritain.

More than 37.6 million people visited the UK last year, up 4% on 2015, spending £22.5 billion, an increase of 2%. Spending peaked in July and August.

John Glen, the new tourism, arts and heritage minister, said: “The money tourists spend goes into our local communities, creates jobs and helps preserve our world-class heritage sites.

“These findings will increase our understanding of just what visitors to the UK spend their money on and will help the tourism sector ensure their offer is as strong as possible.

“The UK tourism industry is enjoying a good period of growth and I will do all I can to help that continue.”

Deirdre Wells, UKinbound chief executive, added: “The findings provide a valuable insight regarding inbound visitors’ spending habits and provide further evidence of the incredible contribution that tourism makes to the UK economy.

“Further understanding our visitors will allow our members to tailor their itineraries, products and services, ensuring the UK remains a world class tourism destination.”

Sally Balcombe, VisitBritain chief executive, said: “We want Britain to be top of people’s list as a ‘must-go now’ destination.

“Understanding more about what our visitors want, and getting a fast read-out of where they spend their money, will ensure we get the right products to them at the right time.

“The insights from this type of research are invaluable for the industry and crucial for us staying a competitive travel destination.”

Shopping statistics:

• Visitors in the UK spent £22.5bn in 2016
• Travel is the UK’s 6th largest export earner
• Tourism is worth £130bn to the UK economy (9% of GDP)
• Tourism is the UK’s 3rd largest employer

Top 10 markets by spend

1 US
2 Ireland
3 France
4 China
6 Germany
7 Saudi Arabia
8 Australia
9 Kuwait
10 Qatar

Top 10 markets for spend-per-visitor

1 Qatar
2 Kuwait
3 Saudi Arabia
4 Bahrain
6 Thailand
7 Lebanon
8 Nigeria
9 Oman
10 India

Picture of tourists in Bath: ©VisitBritain/Joanna Henderson