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VisitBritain Spurs £1.26 Billion Boost in UK Tourism Spending

Visitors spent an additional £1.26 billion across Britain as a result of activity by national tourism agency VisitBritain/VisitEngland, latest figures show.

It means that for every pound invested in the agency, visitors spent an additional £15 in Britain.

The agency reported the figures, which cover its activity from April 2021 to July 2023, at its annual review event on 22 May. The event, titled ‘Working in partnership to drive a thriving tourism industry,’ outlined its priorities and activities to support the sector and grow the visitor economy.

VisitBritain’s latest inbound tourism forecast estimates £32.5 billion will be spent by international visitors in the UK this year, up 5% on 2023, and up 14% on 2019. The forecast also predicts 38.7 million visits to the UK, up 2% on the 38.0 million seen in 2023 but still 5% below 2019 levels.

Domestically, the agency’s latest research shows that more than a third of Brits, 35%, are more likely to choose a UK trip rather than an overseas trip in the next 12 months compared to the previous year.

Speaking ahead of the review, British Tourist Authority Chairman Nick de Bois emphasized the importance of Britain’s tourism industry. “An industry worth £127 billion a year to the economy, our third largest service export, a growth industry and a job creator, with huge potential to fire up regional economies,” he said.

“Working in partnership with industry and Government, getting the right structures and policies in place, we can boost Britain’s competitive position, unlock growth, and drive inward investment so more local communities feel tourism’s benefits,” de Bois added.

Inbound tourism to the UK has seen significant growth, particularly from the United States. However, there has been a slowdown in the pace of recovery, and competition from European neighbors remains fierce.

To drive spending to Britain, VisitBritain’s international GREAT Britain campaigns focus on markets showing strong growth, including the US, Australia, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and major European markets.

De Bois noted that tourism also shapes how people around the world see Britain. Those who visit are 19% more likely to invest in British products and businesses.

“Britain ranks highly for its history, heritage, contemporary culture, and sport, but perceptions are not as strong for its natural beauty and perceived welcome,” de Bois said. VisitBritain’s international GREAT campaigns promote Britain’s welcome, inspiring visitors to discover more, stay longer, and feel the urgency to visit now.

Looking ahead, VisitBritain plans to use the growing trend of screen tourism and set-jetting to boost inbound tourism. Its upcoming ‘Starring GREAT Britain’ campaign will highlight filming locations and associated visitor experiences, showcasing Britain’s regional diversity.

VisitBritain is also partnering with major companies like British Airways and Wego to convert interest in visiting Britain into bookings. This generated £6.1 million of additional cash and marketing-in-kind activity last year.

The agency’s work with international trade ensures British products and destinations are sold globally. Major trade missions have connected hundreds of British businesses with international buyers, generating an additional £47 million in sales.

VisitBritain also supports the business events industry, helping win international conferences and exhibitions, with its grants program supporting events worth £20.9 million to the economy.

De Bois acknowledged ongoing challenges for the sector, including rising costs and staff shortages. “Supporting our industry will continue to be at the heart of our strategic activity,” he said.

An important step towards this is the creation of the Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP) program. This simplifies the regional structure for English tourism to grow sustainable local visitor economies, with 33 LVEPs created to date.

VisitEngland continues to support small businesses with guidance and tools on sustainability and accessibility through its Business Advice Hub. Free trade initiatives like the ‘Taking England to the World’ program help businesses reach new customers and grow revenue.

Tourism is one of Britain’s most successful industries, supporting hundreds of thousands of small businesses and employing more than three million people across all regions.

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