Records set for inbound tourism to the UK in 2015

Friday 19 February 2016

New figures out today show that 2015 set a new record for inbound tourism to the UK with 35.8 million visits, four per cent up on 2014 and the sixth consecutive year of growth.

Comparing growth over the last five years shows that there were six million more visits in 2015 than 2010, an increase of 20%.

Visitors spent £21.8 billion in the UK last year in line with 2014's record breaking figure. When considering spending for December only last year, a new record was set with overseas visitors spending £1.7bn, up 1% on December 2014.

Tourism Minister David Evennett said:

"Tourism is one of the UK's fastest growing industries, and attracting more international visitors to our shores is not only important for the sector but for the nation's whole economy.

"These record figures show how our incredible mixture of stunning countryside, world-class sport, historic buildings and thriving cities continue to be a major draw for tourists."

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:

"This growth is really fantastic news for the UK economy and shows we're on track to realise our ambition to grow international visits by more than 20% to 42 million by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend, as well as driving tourism across all our nations and region so its benefits are felt across the whole of Britain."

Visits from North America, which includes Canada and the USA, the latter the UK's most valuable tourism source market, showed growth of 8% last year compared to 2014, with 3.9m visits.

It was a record year for visits from the high volume EU15 markets, with a 2% increase on 2014 to 19.9m visits.

A record was also set for visits from the ‘Rest of the World' with 5.6m, a 6% increase on 2014.

Regarding the types of journeys made, record results were seen in the number of holiday visits to the UK with 13.7m visits, 1% up on 2014, as well as those visiting friends and relatives, 10.5m, up 7% on 2014. Visits for business increased 6% on 2014 with 8.7m visits and people coming for other reasons, defined by the International Passenger Survey as miscellaneous journey purposes, was up 5% on 2014 with 2.9m visits.

VisitBritain's international marketing campaigns have been promoting the nations and regions of Britain with a global ‘Countryside is GREAT' campaign running in 2015 to boost visits to more locations across the country by highlighting the beauty of the countryside and rural landscape. The campaign's success can be seen in improvements in international perceptions of the UK's ‘natural beauty,' a traditionally less lauded attribute, which reached new heights coming inside the top 20 global ranking for the first time, taking 18th spot out of 50 nations in a 2015 nations branding survey.

VisitBritain launched its largest international marketing campaign for 2016 earlier this month which promotes memorable moments visitors can only experience on a trip to Britain. Running across four markets - Brazil, France, Germany and the USA - the GREAT Britain ‘Home of Amazing Moments' campaign shows people the experiences, culture and countryside across Britain's nations and regions to inspire them to want to be part of it, and book a trip to come and discover their own amazing moments.

The campaign is based on research by VisitBritain which found that communicating atmosphere and emotion is important in attracting overseas visitors. While Britain was seen as offering great cultural sights for example museums and galleries, it was considered less strong on communicating the promise of emotive and immersive experiences.

Latest forecasts from VisitBritain show that the growth in visitor numbers is set to continue this year with 36.7million visits expected in 2016.

In spite of the strength of Sterling, spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23bn in 2016.

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 is worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy.

Inbound tourism update from the Office for National Statistics (figures provisional):




(JAN - DEC 2015)

Visits (000)

% change
Dec 2014

Visits (000)

% change
vs. Oct '14 - Dec '14

Visits (000)

% change
Jan - Dec '14








Spend (£ million)







Click here to see the latest ONS data for inbound tourism


For more information please contact Tracey Edginton at VisitBritain:
/ 020 7578 1098 or 07974 111 076

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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