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Tourism 'booming' after visitors head to UK in record numbers

Published 20/05/2016

Tourists take photos from the external terrace at the Sky Garden in central London
Tourists take photos from the external terrace at the Sky Garden in central London

Visits to the UK by overseas tourists increased by 5.1% last year, according to official figures.

Foreign residents made 36.1 million visits to the UK in 2015, which is the highest number since the international passenger survey began in 1961, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Earnings from the visits also reached a record high of £22.1 billion, a 1% increase compared with 2014.

The Government claimed the figures demonstrate that the tourism industry is "booming".

The ONS data also shows UK residents took 65.7 million trips abroad last year - a 9.4% rise on the previous 12 months.

Spending on these visits was up 9.8% to £3.5 billion.

Spain continued to be the most popular destination for Britons, accounting for almost a fifth (19.8%) of all visits abroad, at 13 million.

Figures for the first three months of 2016 show a 6% rise in visits by overseas tourists compared with the same period in 2015, reaching 7.36 million.

Tourism Minister David Evennett said: " Our tourism industry is booming as our world-class attractions, heritage and culture make Britain the first choice destination for many, with visit numbers at an all-time high.

"Tourism is making a massive contribution to our economy and we want to keep up this momentum, encouraging more people to come and enjoy the very best of Britain for themselves."

VisitBritain director Patricia Yates described the figures as " a tangible demonstration of the growing importance of inbound tourism to the UK economy".

Overseas visits to London grew by 6.8% to 18.6 million last year, with trips to the rest of England up by 6.9% to 15.2 million.

The capital's newly elected mayor Sadiq Khan said: "It is fantastic that more people than ever before are opting to visit London, to sample the best of our capital and the best of Britain. London has something for everyone and an appeal that clearly extends across the globe."

There was a 14% increase in domestic tourism expenditure in Scotland, although overseas visitors dipped by 4%.

Scotland's Culture and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: " It is encouraging that spending from domestic visitors has increased despite the industry operating in a challenging environment."

A spokeswoman for UK travel organisation Abta said: " These figures demonstrate the resilience of UK travellers, and show the vital economic importance of travel to the UK economy."

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