It has been a record-breaking year to date for inbound tourism numbers and spend to the UK and growth looks set to continue in 2016 according to forecasts from national tourism body VisitBritain.
In spite of the strength of Sterling, spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23 billion in 2016, a 4.2% increase on spending this year which is expected to top out at £22 billion, a 0.7% increase on 2014.
The number of overseas visitors to the UK is expected to rise next year to 36.7million visits, up 3.8% on 2015 which is likely to see about 35.4 million visits by year end.
The forecast puts VisitBritain on track to realise its ambition for growing international visits to Britain by more than 20% over the next five years to 42 million visits by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend.
VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe said:
“Everything we do is motivated by the goal to add value to the tourism industry by building our competitive tourism offer and driving economic growth and jobs across all our nations and regions, so that the benefits of tourism are felt across the whole of Britain.
“We are competing in a tough international environment and these results highlight how strongly the tourism sector, one of the UK’s fastest growing export industries, has performed and how the Government’s tourism strategy, supported by the GREAT campaign, is producing results.”
VisitBritain’s campaigns have continued to produce results and generated an extra £2.5 billion in international visitor spend in Britain during the last four years. This means that every £1 invested in VisitBritain’s activities has resulted in an overseas visitor spending £21 in Britain. And to this can be added the £630 million delivered by VisitBritain, thanks to its continuing role as a partner in the cross-UK Government GREAT campaign.
A focus for VisitBritain this year has been to raise awareness of the beauty of Britain’s countryside through its global Countryside is GREAT campaign to showcase the rural landscape. International perceptions of the UK’s ‘natural beauty’ – a traditionally less lauded attribute – reached new heights this year, coming inside the top 20 global ranking for the first time, taking 18th spot out of 50 nations in the 2015 Anholt-GfK Nations Brand Index survey published in November.
Promoting the diversity of Britain’s tourism offer across all its nations and regions will continue in 2016 through a range of activities, events and celebrations:
- England’s natural beauty will be on display as it celebrates the ‘Year of the GREAT English Garden’ – timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of renowned English landscape gardener Capability Brown
- Wales’ ‘Year of Adventure’ will offer up adrenalin pumping activities as well as culinary and literary adventures
- Northern Ireland will showcase the best of its cuisine with the ‘Year of Food and Drink’
- Scotland will put the spotlight on its past, present and future as it celebrates its ‘Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design’.
It will be a big year for the arts with a number of Britain’s musical and literary legends celebrating significant anniversaries and milestones in 2016:
- 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death which will be commemorated with events, exhibitions and performances in Shakespeare’s hometown Stratford upon Avon.
- 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth – visitors to Britain can learn more about the author at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Buckinghamshire or visit Cardiff (Dahl’s birthplace) where the whole city will be the setting for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of all that’s weird and wonderful in his much-loved world.
- Anniversaries of the births of Charlotte Bronte and Beatrix Potter
- The 20th anniversary of the iconic British pop group the Spice Girls
- Musical anniversaries celebrated by Tom Jones, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Lulu, Bananarama, Little Mix and Englebert Humperdinck among others.
Adding to a year of art and culture, 2016 will also see the opening of new galleries, performances and productions:
- The National Museums of Scotland will open 10 new galleries displaying collections of science and technology and art and design
- The new Tate Modern will open in June
- The highly anticipated play ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ debuts to the world on the West End in July
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.