UK tourism scored record boost in 2017

Strand Palace Hotel, London, UK. Photo credit: Strand Palace Hotel

The UK saw a record year of inbound travel in 2017 with strong growth from several overseas visitor markets, including China, Australia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, India and the U.S, according to data from VisitBritain.

Overall, there were 39.2 million inbound visits to the UK in 2017, rising 4 percent from the previous year. Last year also was a record-breaker for the amount overseas visitors spent across the country, rising 9 percent to £24.5 billion in total. 

The UK recorded double-digit growth last year in visits and spending from China. The number of visits rose 29 percent from 2016 to 337,000. Spending from these visitors increased 35 percent to £694 million.

Visits from the U.S. grew 13 percent to 3.9 million in 2017, the highest since 2000. These travelers spent a record £3.6 billion, up 9 percent from 2016's levels. 

Visitor numbers and spending from the GCC and India also reached record levels. There were 562,000 visits from India, up 35 percent with visitors spending £454 million. Meanwhile, there were 812,000 inbound visits from the GCC, up 5 percent. They spent a record £2.2 billion, up 55 percent from the previous year.

Visitors from Australia reached 1.1 million, up 11 percent. These visitors spent £1.2 billion during their stay, up 13 percent from 2016. 

A record of 25.6 million visitors from the EU visited the UK in 2017, with visitors spending £10 billion. 

“Britain’s tourism industry is booming. Last year was another record-breaker, and we welcomed more people than ever from important markets including China, India and the Gulf states. We are working hard to sustain this excellent growth and encourage international visitors to travel around the UK, ensuring that more communities can benefit," Michael Ellis, the minister of tourism in the UK, said in a statement.

Inbound tourism to the nations and regions in 2017 

Inbound tourism visits across the English regions, outside of London, reached a record 16.5 million, rising 3 percent. However, spending by these visitors equaled the previous record of £7.8 billion. 

Records also were set for the number of visits to London, which grew 4 percent in 2017 to 19.8 million. Visitors spent a record £13.5 billion during their stay in London, increasing 14 percent from 2016's levels. 

There were 1.1 million inbound visits to Wales, with visitors spending £369 million in the country; however, Scotland's inbound visitor numbers increased 17 percent to 3.2 million, with these travelers spending a record £2.3 billion, up 23 percent from 2016.

Tourism is worth £127 billion annually to the UK economy.

“Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and the strong growth across many of our high-value markets demonstrates our continued ability to attract international visitors in a fiercely competitive global industry and to deliver economic growth right across the country. This growth underscores the increasing importance of tourism as an industry that demonstrates Britain is an outward-facing nation, welcoming and engaging people from all over the world,” Patricia Yates, director of VisitBritain, said in a statement.