Tourism, which is one of the UK's fastest growing industries, attracted more international visitors to the UK in 2015. VisitBritain announced that 2015 set a new record with 35.8 million visits, four percent up on 2014 and the sixth consecutive year of growth.
Visitors spent £21.8 billion in the UK last year in line with 2014's record breaking figure. When considering spending for December only last year, a new record was set with overseas visitors spending £1.7bn, up 1% on December 2014.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said, "This growth is really fantastic news for the UK economy and shows we're on track to realise our ambition to grow international visits by more than 20% to 42 million by 2020, which could see an additional £4.5 billion in visitor spend, as well as driving tourism across all our nations and region so its benefits are felt across the whole of Britain."
Visits from North America, which includes Canada and the USA, the latter the UK's most valuable tourism source market, showed growth of 8% last year compared to 2014, with 3.9m visits.
It was a record year for visits from the high volume EU15 markets, with a 2% increase on 2014 to 19.9m visits.
A record was also set for visits from the ‘Rest of the World' with 5.6m, a 6% increase on 2014.
Regarding the types of journeys made, record results were seen in the number of holiday visits to the UK with 13.7m visits, 1% up on 2014, as well as those visiting friends and relatives, 10.5m, up 7% on 2014. Visits for business increased 6% on 2014 with 8.7m visits and people coming for other reasons, defined by the International Passenger Survey as miscellaneous journey purposes, was up 5% on 2014 with 2.9m visits.
Latest forecasts from VisitBritain show that the growth in visitor numbers is set to continue this year with 36.7million visits expected in 2016.
In spite of the strength of Sterling, spending by overseas visitors is predicted to reach almost £23bn in 2016.
Tourism is Britain's seventh largest export industry and third largest service sector. The industry is also a major job creator, for example every 22 additional Chinese visitors that come to Britain create an additional job in the sector. Inbound tourism is worth more than £26 billion to the UK economy.