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A record number of Chinese travellers are opting to visit the UK, with numbers up by 37% in the first nine months of 2015.
Arrivals from China reached 214,000 between January and September, beating the number of visits for all of 2014, with figures for the last quarter of 2015 still to come.
Spend was up 4% over the same period, to £435 million, latest figures from VisitBritain show.
The tourist body hopes a new visitor visa pilot scheme for Chinese people introduced earlier this month by the government will further boost arrivals.
Chinese visitors are already some of the UK’s highest spenders, spending on average £2,688 a head. VisitBritain has ambitions to double spend to £1 billion by 2020.
VisitBritain forecasts that growth in overall inbound tourism looks set to continue in 2016 for numbers and spend.
Spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23 billion in 2016, a 4.2% increase on last year despite of the strength of sterling.
The number of overseas visitors is expected to rise to 36.7million visits, up 3.8% on 2015.
The forecast puts VisitBritain on track to achieve its ambition of 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 director, Patricia Yates, said: “China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain.
“Chinese New Year [February 8] is traditionally one of the busiest travel times for Chinese travellers and we want Britain to be at the top of their list as a must-go now destination.”
Latest figures from the International Passenger Survey also show that:
- Visits from the US were up 7% to 2.6 million in the first nine months of the year, the best figures since 2007.
- Arrivals from Germany rose by 1% to 2.6 million, while visits from France, the UK’s largest market by volume, was on par with 2014’s record result so far at 3.2 million.
- Spending by visitors from France was up 9% to £1.2 billion, seeing it overtake Germany as the UK’s second largest market by value to date.
- Growth was also seen from the Gulf countries including from the United Arab Emirates with visits up 32% to 273,000 and spend up 3% to £378 million.
- Although visits from Saudi Arabia were down 3% to 116,000, spending rose 44% to £466 million.
- Other markets showing growth in the first nine months of 2015 included Canada with visits up 13% to 569,000 and spend up14% to £403 million.
- Arrivals from India were up 13% to set a new record.
Last summer set a record for the duration of stay, at 97 million nights - up 6% on July to September 2014 and the highest since 2006 for any third quarter.
This equates to an average length of stay per visitor of 9.2 nights in the UK, compared to 9.1 in 2014.
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