The United States continues to lead UK tourism’s recovery with record-breaking spend by American visitors in the UK in 2023, up 28% on 2019 based on latest figures even when adjusted for inflation.
VisitBritain is expecting the US market to be worth £6.7 billion in 2024 with American visitors contributing almost £1 in every £5 of all inbound spending.
The latest official ONS statistics available for inbound tourism to the UK are for January to September 2023. These show that there were 28.2 million inbound visits from January to September 2023 with overseas visitors spending £23.0 billion in the UK. The latest data also shows average visitor spending in 2023 to date of £817 per visit compared to £684 in 2019 with visitors also staying longer, on average staying 7.3 nights compared to 6.4 in 2019.
The pace of recovery from Europe slowed as 2023 progressed with spending, in real terms, remaining just below 2019 based on the latest data.
China, the UK’s second most valuable inbound market in 2019, has continued to build back with visitor numbers increasing throughout 2023, although overall East Asia has been relatively slower to recover. VisitBritain is expecting China to recover to a value of £1.7 billion in 2024 to be the UK’s fourth most valuable inbound visitor market.
VisitBritain has published its tourism forecast for 2024 showing an increase in inbound visits and spend overall to the UK compared to 2023 levels.
VisitBritain’s overall forecast for spending by international visitors in the UK in 2024 is £34.1 billion, up 7% on the spending predicted in 2023 and up 20% on 2019, although 96% of 2019 levels when adjusted for inflation.
Looking at the number of visits to the UK, 39.5 million visits are forecast, up 5% on the 37.8 million expected in 2023 however still 3% shy of 2019 levels.
VisitBritain is predicting that inbound tourism, both the number of visits and spending by international visitors, will recover to 2019 levels by early 2025.
VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates said:
“International visitors spend tens of billions of pounds in the UK with the money generated supporting local economies and jobs, so it has been great to see the double-digit growth in spending from the US as well as the overall growth forecast for next year on 2023.
“We have however seen a slow-down in the overall pace of recovery compared to the strong start seen in the first half of 2023 and we face fierce competition from our European neighbours. To drive spending to Britain our international campaigns will remain focused on those markets showing strong growth, including Australia and the US, and we’ll continue to compete hard in our major European markets and the valuable Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries.
“We also want more destinations across Britain to feel tourism’s economic benefits. Our global GREAT Britain campaigns are showcasing our vibrant cities, contemporary culture and beautiful coast and countryside, inspiring visitors to discover more of Britain, stay longer and to come now.”
VisitBritain’s GREAT Britain marketing campaigns in 2024 are set to run across Australia, France, Germany, the GCC and the US, inspiring visitors to ‘See Things Differently’ by showing fresh and exciting experiences, alongside a warm British welcome.
VisitBritain’s research shows that one of the biggest drivers for visitors globally in choosing a destination is that it is a welcoming place to visit.
Its campaigns in 2024 are also harnessing the power of screen tourism to showcase Britain’s regional diversity, highlighting film and TV locations, destinations and visitor experiences to drive visits. VisitBritain’s research shows that films and TV are powerful motivators for travel while Expedia Group’s latest ‘set-jetting’ forecast showed that more than half of international travellers said TV shows and films inspire their travel plans. VisitBritain has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the British Film Commission to boost screen tourism throughout the UK’s nations and regions.
As well as its global campaigns VisitBritain continues to work with partners in market, including British Airways in the US and Wego in the GCC, to convert the interest to visit Britain into bookings now. Its work with international trade also ensures British products and destinations are sold internationally.
Tourism is one of Britain’s most successful industries, its third largest service export and a major part of British trade.
For destination inspiration to ‘See Things Differently’ in Britain in 2024 see: https://www.visitbritain.com/en/how-see-things-differently-britain-2024
For VisitBritain’s 2024 annual events calendar please see: https://www.visitbritain.com/en/annual-events-britain
Photo credit: Tower of London