International visits to Britain for the first nine months of 2015 have broken previous records according to new figures out today from the Office for National Statistics.
The data shows there were 27.1 million visits to Britain from January to September this year, a 3% increase compared to the same period in 2014.
Spending by international visitors in September was £2.2 billion, equalling last year's record spend for the same month. Overall, spending by visitors for the first nine months of 2015 was £16.5 billion.
The continued growth in international visits reflects findings from the 2015 Anholt-GfK Nations Brand Index (NBI) published earlier this week, which showed that global perceptions of Britain as a welcoming place are improving.
China in particular gave the UK a big boost for ‘welcome' in the NBI, scoring it 3rd overall for this ‘attribute,' up 11 places from 2014. China also ranked the UK 1st overall for culture and 2nd overall for not only tourism but also as a place they'd like to visit if money was no object. The results come just as VisitBritain gets set to host its largest ever tourism mission to China next week with more than 70 travel trade and industry suppliers from the UK set to showcase what makes Britain a GREAT destination.
Latest figures show that a record number of visitors from China are coming to Britain with the number of visits in the first six months of 2015 up 28% to 90,000 compared to the same period last year, a record first six months of the year.
Overall, the UK came 3rd out of 50 nations for its global ‘brand' in this year's NBI, a place it's held for the fifth year running. The annual index surveys more than 20,000 people from a panel of 20 countries on their perceptions of 50 nations on ‘tourism', ‘culture' and ‘people' as well as ‘exports', ‘governance' and ‘immigration/investment' and then ranks them for their overall brand.
Britain also improved its overall ranking in the NBI in its three largest and most valuable visitor markets, the US, France and Germany.
The US rated Britain 2nd out of 50 nations for its brand, with the highest leaps in perceptions of ‘natural beauty' and ‘cultural heritage. The US market has also been showing a continued return to growth, with a 3% increase in visitors to Britain during the first six months of 2015 compared to the previous year, and the amount spent 2% higher in the first six months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.
France ranked the UK in 4th place overall, its highest placing in seven years, while Germany moved it up 3 places to equal highest 6th place rank, with improvements in perceptions of ‘sport' and ‘welcome.'
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:
"It's really great to see the continued growth in visitor numbers as well as the gains we've made in global perceptions of our brand. Promoting Britain's countryside, culture and ‘welcome' around the world have been a focus for VisitBritain so it's really positive to see the big improvements in these areas.
"The continued improvement across our most valuable visitor markets including the US, France and Germany, as well as growth markets such as China where we've been running our GREAT China Welcome programme and Culture is GREAT campaigns, is also a great endorsement that our international campaigns and marketing are producing results."
VisitBritain launched its global Countryside is GREAT campaign in February this year to drive visits across the whole of Britain and international perceptions of the UK's ‘natural beauty' have also reached new heights in this year's NBI, coming inside the top 20 global rankings for the first time, taking 18th spot.
The UK also improved its rank as a nation ‘rich in cultural heritage,' up one place to 6th overall. Britain held its 4th place ranking as a nation that ‘excels at sport', reflecting the ongoing impact of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and coverage of events including the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire earlier this year and more recently the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Tourism is Britain's seventh largest export industry and third largest service sector. The industry is also a major job creator, for example every 22 additional Chinese visitors that come to Britain create an additional job in the sector. Inbound tourism was worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy in 2013.
For more information please contact Tracey Edginton at VisitBritain: firstname.lastname@example.org
/ 020 7578 1098 or 07974 111 076
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com