UK travel and tourism grew at four times the rate of the country’s economy in 2017, according to World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) figures released on Thursday.

The WTTC’s Economic Impact Research, produced with Oxford Economics, suggests the travel and tourism sector’s contribution to UK GDP grew by 6.2% in the year to £214 billion, above the 4.6% growth in the sector’s global GDP contribution and four times faster than the 1.5% overall growth in UK GDP.

The annual study reported a near 8% rise in spending by international visitors to Britain in 2017 and a 5.8% increase in domestic travel.

The findings “emphasise the vital importance of safeguarding the interests of the sector post-Brexit”, said the WTTC.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and chief executive said: “The strong growth is great news. However, this success cannot be taken for granted.

“While the weak pound is improving competitiveness in the short term and driving visitor arrivals and spending, there are significant challenges in the longer-term which need to be addressed.

“Most critical will be ensuring the country has a workforce sufficient in number and skills to support this growth.”

Guevara added: “The continued inclusion of the UK in EU aviation agreements will be vital. I encourage the government to prioritise the needs of the sector.”

WTTC director of research Rochelle Turner said: “Behind this growth lies the sustained weakness of sterling after the EU referendum in 2016.

“As a result, we have seen an increase of 6.7% in arrivals, the strongest growth in over a decade, boosted by increased price competitiveness and a 7.9% increase of spending by international tourist visitors.”

Turner suggested: “British holidaymakers are increasingly opting to stay at home on ‘staycations’, with outbound tourist departures from the UK growing by only 2.5%.”

However, the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported a 3% rise year on year in outbound holiday departures from the UK in 2017, which would mean a record number of overseas holidays from the country.