Foreign tourist flocked to the UK in record-breaking numbers in July spending more than ever before.
The weakening of the pound since last year’s Brexit vote is a likely contributor to the boost in inbound visitors, with those from North America up by 9% alone on last year to 650,000.
Total arrivals rose by 6% year-on-year to more than four million, meaning that July was the highest month ever for inbound tourism to the UK since official records began in 1961.
Overseas visitors spent £2.8 billion in the UK, the best month on record.
Tourism minister John Glen said: “Tourism is a major economic force that creates jobs and drives growth for the whole of the country.
“These record figures show the continued strength of this important sector and the UK’s global position as a must-visit destination.”
VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said the monthly figures underpinned a strong first half of the year for inbound tourism.
“This sustained growth demonstrates Britain’s continued ability to compete internationally for visitors and shows that tourism, one of our most valuable export industries, is an increasingly important driver of economic growth across our nations and regions,” she said.
Today’s Office for National Statistics figures brought the total number of overseas visits to the UK from January to July to 23.1 million, up 8% on the same period last year.
Spending by visitors during this period rose by 9% to hit a record £13.3 billion.
North America contributed 2.9 million visitors from January to July, up 21% on the same period last year.
Visits from EU countries, the UK’s largest visitor-generating region, rose by 4% to 15.1 million.
Arrivals from the ‘rest of the world’, including Australia, China, the Gulf markets and India, increased to a record 3.6 million, up 18%.
The UK attracted 37.6 million visitors last year, up 4% on 2015 with spending rising by 2% to £22.5 billion.
Guy Ellison, head of UK equities at Investec Wealth & Investment, said: “The pick-up in in-bound tourism is welcome, with London likely to have been the prime beneficiary.
“It was always anticipated that inbound tourism would see a material pick up in 2017 thanks to the sharp devaluation of sterling, though the terrorist attacks in London undoubtedly deterred some visitors.
“Expect the international hotel brands to have benefited from stronger occupancy, though for many London is a small proportion of their estate, with perhaps some spill-over impact to the UK’s independent hotel names and the likes of Whitbread’s Premier Inn.
“Merlin, with its cluster of tourist attractions in London – The Eye, Tussauds etc – and other sited within range of the capital – Legoland – should also have benefited from a pick-up in visitor numbers, though the less clement weather over August may have dampened demand for outdoor attractions.”
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