Britain can expect 41.7 million overseas tourists this year according to a new inbound tourism forecast from VisitBritain.
This would represent an increase of 4.4% on 2017. The forecast also predicted £26.9 billion in visitor spending, an increase of 6.8% on 2017.
VisitBritain’s revised forecast for visits in 2017 is 39.9 million, an increase of 6.2% on 2016. The forecast for spending by visitors in 2017 is £25.1 billion, an 11.6% increase on 2016.
If realised, these forecasts for 2017 would represent new records set for both measures.
Major sources of uncertainty are Brexit, the value of sterling and the economic performance of the UK’s main source markets.
Most Europeans see Britain as a welcoming destination post-Brexit according to VisitBritain – and agree the exchange rate means now is a good time to visit. However, likelihood to visit has fallen since its research conducted August 2016.
The pound remains much lower than its pre-referendum level and is forecast to continue to be weak throughout the medium term, indicating that Britain will remain a good value-for-money destination, although the exact path of the exchange rate throughout 2018 is a source of uncertainty in the forecast.
The US economy is growing, employment is rising and consumer spending is healthy, although there is a divergence between spending growth and weaker income growth as well as a lot of uncertainty around tax and investment policies.
Many emerging markets – China, India, much of South East Asia – continue to grow at a rapid pace and others such as Russia and Brazil have emerged from a recession. The Middle East is hampered by much lower oil prices than those seen a few years ago but growth forecasts for 2018 are generally more positive than in 2017.