Published on Monday, February 20, 2017
New figures show more overseas visitors came to the UK last year than ever before.
In 2016 there were a record 37.3 million inbound visits to the UK, up 3% on 2015, but visitor spend was only in line with 2015 at £22.2 billion.
Latest flight booking data shows that 2017 is off to a strong start with flight bookings to the UK up 16% for February to April compared to the same period last year.
Growth in arrivals last year was strongest after the EU referendum, which led to a fall in the value of the pound. There was a record 3.2 million visits from October to December, up 11% on the same period in 2015.
Inbound visits to friends and relatives saw strong growth throughout 2016 with a record-breaking 11.5 million visits, up 10% on 2015.
There was strong growth in 2016 from North America, Canada and the US - the latter Britain's most valuable tourism source market, with 4.3 million visits, up 7% on 2015.
There were a record 25.3 million visits from the EU in 2016, up 4% on 2015.
Comparing growth during the last six years shows there were 7.5 million more visits in 2016 than 2010, an increase of 25%.
Tourism minister Tracey Crouch said: "As these record-breaking figures show, the UK is one of the world's must-visit destinations.
"Our country has so much to offer tourists from home and abroad, from thriving cities to stunning scenery and renowned cultural attractions.
"The industry makes a significant contribution to our economy, and we will continue to support tourism to grow the sector further and promote the UK across the world."
VisitBritain chief executive Sally Balcombe said: "The strong growth in inbound visits demonstrates British tourism's continued ability to compete for international visitors and deliver economic growth across our nations and regions.
"We must seize the opportunity to build on this, boosting visitor spending by driving home the message of welcome and value particularly in our high spending markets such as China and the US and the valuable European market."
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