Twice as many visitors find UK ‘extremely welcoming’ than five years ago

Tuesday 08 December 2015

The percentage of international visitors who said they felt extremely welcome in Britain has more than doubled in the last five years according to a new report by national tourism agency VisitBritain.

The Britain's welcome to overseas visitors' report, based on a survey of more than 5,000 visitors as they departed Great Britain, found that 42% said they felt extremely welcome, compared to 30% in 2012 and 19% in 2009.

Overall, 89% of visitors surveyed said they felt extremely or very welcome in Britain. Of those, 93% said they would also be extremely or very likely to recommend visiting Britain to family and friends. Danes and Canadians felt the most welcome according to the survey followed by visitors from Sweden, India and the USA.

The report's findings, based on the Civil Aviation Authority's survey of departing visitors in 2014, echo the 2015 Anholt-GfK Nations Brand Index (NBI) results published last month. The UK came third out of 50 nations for its overall ‘brand' in this year's index and improved its rank on being seen as ‘welcoming', up two places on last year coming 11th with big gains from China, Egypt, Canada, France, Germany and Japan. The UK also came 4th out of 50 nations for how favourable people's attitudes are towards it, two places up on 2014.

UK Government Minister for Tourism Tracey Crouch said:

"It's great to see that more overseas tourists are getting a world class welcome when they visit us. UK tourism is a global success story and more tourists leaving with positive memories of their stay can only help spread the word that the UK is the place to visit."

VisitBritain's report also noted that personal recommendations scored top in influencing or inspiring people where to go on holiday, and were considered more influential than travel brochures, special offers or advertising. In some markets, including four of Britain's top markets, the USA, Canada, Spain and Australia, it was given as the most important factor from a choice of 22.

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said:

"We know that being considered friendly and welcoming can really make a difference to people's travel decisions and whether they would recommend a destination. In an era where social media recommendations from friends are so important, it is great to see these historically weaker areas continuing to improve.

"We've been focusing on promoting Britain's welcome around the world through our global Welcome to Great Britain marketing campaigns so it is good to see these improvements not only in our traditionally high value markets such as the USA, but also in our emerging visitor markets including India and growth markets such as China."

Giving visitors a GREAT welcome is part of the UK Government's Five Point Plan for Tourism, announced by the Prime Minister David Cameron in July this year, to boost visitor numbers and spread the economic benefits of tourism across Britain. One example includes the pilot scheme to reimburse the visa fee to Chinese visitors who book on to tours of at least eight days, at least four of which are spent outside London.

Another is VisitBritain's GREAT China Welcome programme which more than 300 businesses across the UK have signed up to since its launch in 2013. These businesses are also listed in VisitBritain's GREAT China Welcome directory to help Chinese visitors easily identify hotels, attractions, retailers and tour operators across Britain that provide information in Mandarin or Cantonese and have adapted their products for the Chinese market and culture.

Easy to use public transport is another factor influencing how welcome visitors feel, and VisitBritain has been working in partnership with Transport for London since 2012 to promote a visitor version of the Oystainer card globally, which visitors can buy before they arrive in the UK. From January 2016, the card will also cover journeys between Gatwick Airport and London, meaning that even more tourists can benefit from pay-as-you-go travel the moment they step of the plane. About 70,000 Visitor Oyster cards on average are sold globally every month and demand is increasing, up more than 50% year-on-year.

The first nine months of 2015 have broken previous records for inbound tourism numbers, with more than 27 million visits to Britain from January to September, a 3% increase compared to the same period last year.

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.


Notes to editors

  1. 5,093 visitors were surveyed as they departed Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Manchester airports throughout 2014.
  2. Click here to read VisitBritain's ‘Britain's welcome to overseas visitors' report.
  3. For VisitBritain's report on the 2015 NBI results click here.

For more information contact:

VisitBritain Media Team

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