Trade body UKinbound welcomed record UK tourism figures confirmed yesterday but reiterated calls for action on “crippling” Air Passenger Duty and high visa costs.
Official figures showed that foreign traveller numbers to the UK rose by 6% to 34.8 million last year over 2013 with spending up by 3% to £21.7 billion.
Arrivals from the US, the most valuable source market, were up by 4% to 3.7 million – the best level since before the recession in 2008.
The figures indicate that numbers are on par with prime minister David Cameron’s forecast of welcoming 40 million visitors per year by 2020, but that they are likely to supersede this projection by 2017 if the 6% annual growth rate can be maintained.
But UKinbound said: “Without limitations such as the crippling APD and high visa costs, it is even likely that by 2020, visitor numbers could almost double, cementing Britain as a market leader.”
UKinbound CEO Deirdre Wells said: “The UK inbound tourism industry has made momentous progress this year, which has exceeded all our expectations.
“What is needed at this stage is continued support to maintain momentum – by increasing the competitiveness of the UK’s taxation and visa system, we could see these record breaking figures double by the end of the decade.”
VisitBritain chief executive Sally Balcombe said: “Inbound tourism is increasing year-after-year, with Britain now achieving its second consecutive annual record, with further growth forecast for 2015.
“The marketplace for global tourism is getting tougher, but the government’s GREAT campaign and VisitBritain’s successful global marketing activity has meant that tourism is increasingly becoming an essential part of the wider success of our economy.
“Such positive growth from North America is very encouraging and we will look to boost this further with our 2015 Countryside is GREAT campaign, sending all these valuable visitors across the nations and regions of Britain.”
Tourism minister for Tourism Helen Grant added: "I am delighted that tourists from overseas are coming to our country in record numbers, spending more and enjoying the very best of Britain.
“It confirms that our tourism strategy is working and highlights the important role the industry plays in the government's long-term economic plan.
“I will continue to work hard with the sector to encourage tourists to visit all parts of the country to further boost local growth and jobs."
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