English regions benefiting from strong growth in international tourist numbers

bath-ukMore international tourists are travelling across English regions than ever before with some areas showing double digit growth in visitor numbers. And they are spending more too.

In the first nine months of 2015 visits to English regions outside London were up 7% on the same period in 2014 with 11.7 million visits, setting a new record.

Spending by international visitors across the regions was up 4% to £5.8 billion compared to the same period in 2014.

Figures released this month by VisitBritain also show that July to September 2015 was a record breaker for a quarter three period, with 4.7m visits to the English regions, an 8% increase on the same period in 2014 and beating the previous record set in 2006.

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The number of international visitors travelling to the North showed especially strong growth in the first nine months of 2015 with visits to the North East up 23% compared to the same period in 2014, and up 12% in the North West.

Tourism Minister David Evennett said: “We invested £10 million in 2015 to boost tourism in the North and these figures show that it is already making a huge difference, bringing more visitors to the area.

“A booming tourism industry supports local economies, brings job growth to the regions and helps cement their reputation as must-visit destinations.”

VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “Inbound tourism is one of our fastest growing export industries and with five years of consecutive growth in visitor numbers and record-breaking figures for 2015, it is really encouraging to see that this growth is being spread across so many of our regions.”

The regional figures show that in the nine months from January to September 2015:

  • Inbound visits to the North East increased by 23% to 460,000 on 2014 figures.
  • The North West saw a 12% increase in visits to 2.1m on 2014 figures.
  • Visits to the West Midlands increased 8% to 1.6m and East Midlands up 15% to 880,000 visits.
  • The East of England saw visits grow 5% during the first nine months to 1.7m.
  • Visits to the South West grew 6% to 1.9m and the South East 9% to 4m.
  • Yorkshire saw a dip with 998,000 visitors in the first nine months of 2015 compared to 1.1m in 2014. However this comes on the back of its record-breaking figures and strong growth in quarter three in 2014 following the region’s hosting of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.

In the first nine months of 2015 the top three markets for visits to the English regions, outside of London, were Germany, France and the Irish Republic. Looking at longer haul markets, visits from China to the regions were up 47% to 116,000 and Canada up 20% to 241,000.

The number of international visitors travelling to the Rest of England for business, and the amount they spent, rose 14% to 3m visits and £1.4m in the first nine months of 2015. Those visiting friends and relatives, and the amount they spent increased by 8%, to 4.4m visits and £1.8m spent compared to the same period in 2014. The number of holiday visits was on a par with the first nine months of 2014 at 3.2m.

The latest figures come as VisitBritain gets set to next week host its annual tourism event ExploreGB, this year being held in Liverpool, to attract even more international visitors to Britain.

More than 300 international buyers from 40 countries are set to do business with more than 300 travel trade suppliers from across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at the event being held from Thursday 3 to Friday 4 March at the city’s Arena and Convention Centre.

Buyers from Britain’s largest and most valuable markets including the USA, Germany, France, Canada and Australia are attending as well as those from China, the world’s largest outbound market, as well as India, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea to name a few.

More than 30,000 business meetings are expected to take place across the two day event with buyers also given the chance to try out tourism products and services with pre-and-post event trips organised across Britain, including for 30 journalists from 18 countries.

Last year set a record for inbound tourism to Britain with 35.8m visits overall, 4% up on 2014. Comparing growth over the last five years shows that there were six million more visits in 2015 than 2010, an increase of 20%.

VisitBritain’s forecast for 2016 show that the growth in visitor numbers is set to continue with 36.7m visits expected. Spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23 billion this year, a 4.2% increase on spending in 2015.

This puts VisitBritain on track to realise its ambition for growing international visits to Britain by more than 20% to 42m visits by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend.

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.

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