VisitBritain has reported another record year for inbound tourism, in terms of visitor expenditure and numbers.
The national tourism agency’s 2014-2015 annual review said international visitors spent £2.5 billion in Britain in the last four years, beating the government’s target set in 2011 by more than half a billion pounds.
The GREAT campaign, in which VisitBritain is a partner, has added a further £630 million in international visitor spend since January 2012.
The worldwide travel trade played a significant role, generating £888 million of the total international visitor spend over the last four years.
This follows eight trade events in the US, Asia and Europe during 2014-2015 to ensure Britain features in tour operators’ itineraries, and the launch of ExploreGB, which brought together 250 international buyers with 350 UK tourism suppliers.
Meanwhile, the review said commercial partners such as British Airways and Expedia have invested £62.5 million in cash and in kind, for example through marketing to promote Britain, in the last four years.
The review showed international tourism is growing the fastest in the regions: visits to Wales in 2014 were up 7% on 2013 to 932, 000; Scotland visits increased 12% to 2.7 million; England 5% to 14.2 million (not including London) and visits to London were up 4% to 18.8 million.
VisitBritain is targeting growth in international visits to Britain of more than 20% in the next five years to 42 million by 2020. This could see international visitor spend increase by an additional £4.5 billion.
As well as targeting existing major inbound markets of Europe, the US and Australia, new growth markets China, Brazil and the Gulf will be tapped to help deliver the targets.
Already in the first seven months of this year, more than 20 million visits were made to Britain – beating all previous records and representing a 3% increase on the same period last year. The North American market increased by 15% during June alone compared to June 2014.
VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues said: “We have contributed to another record year for inbound tourism numbers and spend. Inbound tourism is clearly a key economic driver, creating growth and jobs right across Britain.”
He said the tourist board would continue to deliver campaigns and partnerships to promote Britain to make it easier for visitors to get to the country by building air route connectivity and supporting the development of a bookable, integrated transport system for visitors.
Overall, inbound tourism was worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy in 2013. Inbound tourism is Britain’s third largest service export and one of its fastest-growing, according to the report.