Latest figures from VisitBritain show that visits from China were up 37% in the first nine months of 2015, smashing previous records.
There were 214,000 visits from China from January to September, beating the number of visits for all of 2014, with figures for the last quarter of 2015 still to come. Spend was up 4% over the same period, to £435 million.
Britain could expect another boost from China as Chinese New Year approaches on 8 February, one of the prime times of travel for the Chinese. Britain is gearing up to host some of the largest celebrations outside Asia from lantern parades in Manchester and London's Chinatown to festivals and events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Newcastle and Bristol, among others.
The new visitor visa pilot scheme for Chinese nationals introduced earlier this month by the UK Government looks set to further position Britain as the destination of choice for this rapidly-growing market.
Chinese visitors are already some of the UK's highest spenders, spending on average £2,688 a head. VisitBritain has ambitions to double spend from Chinese visitors to £1 billion by 2020.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:
"China is the world's largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. Chinese New Year is traditionally one of the busiest travel times for Chinese travellers and we want Britain to be at the top of their list as a must-go now destination."
VisitBritain's latest figures from the International Passenger Survey also showed strong growth from the USA in 2015, the UK's most valuable market, with visits up 7% during the first nine months of the year to 2.6m, the best figures since 2007.
Growth was also seen in visits from Germany, up 1% to 2.6m from January to September last year, while the number of visits from France, the UK's largest market by volume, was on par with 2014's record result so far at 3.2m. Spending by visitors from France was up 9% to £1.2bn, seeing it overtake Germany as the UK's second largest market by value to date.
In a drive to bring more tourists from these markets, VisitBritain this month launched its largest international marketing campaign for 2016 - the ‘GREAT Britain Home of Amazing Moments' campaign. It aims to show people the diversity of experiences, culture and countryside available in Britain and inspire them to want to be part of it by booking a trip to come and discover their own ‘amazing moments'. As well as France, Germany and the US the campaign is also running in Brazil.
Strong growth was also seen from the Gulf countries including from the United Arab Emirates with visits up 32% in the first nine months of 2015 to 273,000 and spend up 3% to £378m. Although visits from Saudi Arabia were down 3% to 116,000, spending rose 44% to £466m.
Other markets showing growth in the first nine months of 2015 included Canada with visits up 13% (to 569,000) and spend up14% (to £403m).
Visits from India were up 13% setting a new record.
Latest figures also show that last summer set a record for the number of nights that visitors spent in the UK with 97m nights, up 6% on July to September 2014 and the highest since 2006 for any quarter three. This equates to an average length of stay per visitor of 9.2 nights in the UK, compared to 9.1 in 2014.
VisitBritain has forecast that growth in inbound tourism looks set to continue in 2016 for numbers and spend.
In spite of the strength of Sterling, spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23 billion in 2016, a 4.2% increase on last year.
The number of overseas visitors to the UK is expected to rise to 36.7million visits, up 3.8% on 2015.
The forecast puts VisitBritain on track to realise its ambition for growing international visits to Britain by more than 20% over the next five years to 42 million visits by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend.
Notes to editors
How Britain is celebrating Chinese New Year
For more information please contact Tracey Edginton at VisitBritain: tracey.edginton@visitbritain / 020 7578 1098 or 07974 111 076.
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com