Tourism is booming in the UK with nearly 40 million overseas people expected to have visited the country during 2017 - a record figure. Tourist promotion agency VisitBritain forecasts overseas trips to the UK will increase 6% to 39.7 million with spending up 14% to £25.7bn this year. Britons are also holidaying at home in record numbers.
British Tourist Authority chairman Steve Ridgway said tourism was worth £127bn annually to the economy. He called the sector an economic powerhouse and a job creator right across Britain.
Two-and-a-half times bigger than the automotive industry, employing three million, tourism is one of our most successful exports and needs no trade deals to compete globally.
The UK has become a cheaper place to visit for tourists from overseas following the fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote last year. But Mr Ridgway said: Tourism is a fiercely competitive global industry and you cannot just build a strong, resilient industry on a weaker currency.
We must continue to invest in developing world-class tourism products, getting Britain on the wish-list of international and domestic travelers and we must make it easy for visitors to make that trip.
Tourism Minister John Glen said: Tourism contributes billions to the UK economy and supports millions of jobs. He added that the record figures for overseas and domestic holidaymakers were testament to our world-class attractions and the innovation of our tourism industry.
During the first six months of the year there were a record 23.1 million overseas visits to the UK - up 8% on the same period in 2016 - and the figures for July topped four million for the first time, with only a slightly smaller number of visits made during August.
The top UK attractions last year were the British Museum - 6.4 million visits; National Gallery -6.3 million; Tate Modern - 5.8 million; Natural History Museum - 4.6 million; Southbank Centre - 3.9 million
Britain's beaches and attractions have also attracted more domestic users with staycations” on the rise. From January to June this year, domestic overnight holidays in England rose 7% to a record 20.4 million with visitors spending £4.6bn - a rise of 17% and another record.
This week figures from the trade body UK Finance showed UK tourists' debit card spending when abroad was down sharply compared with last summer, providing more evidence of the trend towards holidaying at home. Spending on UK debit cards overseas was down nearly 13% in August compared with the same month in 2016.