VisitBritain data shows countries with highest spending by inbound tourists: top is USA (13% of the total), France (8%), Germany (7%) and Australia (5%)

Visit Britain has commissioned a report, by Deloitte and Oxford Economics. The report indicates that the tourism sector in the UK is worth some £127 billion per year now, and might grow at 3.8% per year. They say it might be worth £257 billion to the UK economy by 2025. Their report says that UK income from foreign tourists in 2012 was £24 billion, (giving a net UK tourism deficit from outbound tourists of £13.8 billion). The £24 billion contributed £6.7 billion to HMRC. Data for 2012 show that the countries whose visitors to the UK spent the most were the USA (by far the most at 13% of the total), France (8%), Germany (7%) and Australia (5%).  Then Ireland, Spain and Italy at 4% each. By far the largest number of visitors came from France (12% of the total), next Germany at 10% and USA at 9%. Predictably those who have come long haul spend more on their visits than Europeans. In 2012 about 73% of inbound visitors reached the UK by air. In 2012 there were 179,000 visits by Chinese people to the UK (0.6% of all overseas visits). They accounted for 1.7% of all nights in the UK by overseas visitors, and they spent £300m spent, accounting for 1.6% of the total spent whilst in the UK by overseas visitors.




Inbound Tourism – Updated April 2013

Inbound tourism facts (from VisitBritain)

The table below shows trends in inbound tourism for the period 2002 to 2012 based on the Office for National Statistics International Passenger Survey.  The number of visits peaked in 2007 at 32.8 million, since when there were several years of slight decline followed by small increases in 2011 and 2012.  After a long period during which the average spend per visit hovered at a little under £500 there has been a marked increase in the past four years, driven on by the relative weakness of sterling.

The long-term trend is for the average length of time each inbound visitor stays in the UK to decline, however the figure has been fairly stable for the past six years.  In line with many other developed economies the UK has an international tourism balance of payments deficit.  This increased both rapidly and consistently in the decade to 2008, but has shrunk by over a third in recent years as Britons took fewer overseas trips.

UK inbound tourists and tourism deficit 2003 - 2013


Top 10 Markets

The top ten inbound markets for the UK in terms of number of visits during 2012 accounted for two in three visits (66%).  It is noteworthy that only two long-haul markets, the USA and Australia, appear in the top ten.  Looking at spending by inbound visitors, the top ten markets account for 54% of all spending, with the USA worth almost £1 billion more than the next most valuable market, France.  All of the top ten markets measured in terms of value are ‘developed’ rather than ’emerging’ source markets for international tourism.

   UK tourism 2013 top markets by volume and value


See more details below – for countries not listed above.

[In 2012, the number of visitors from China was tiny by comparison. 179 (thousand), and they spent about £300 million – less than half the amount spent by Dutch visitors, less than half the amount spent by Australians. See below for details . AW comment]
Fastest Growing and Declining Markets

Two out of the five markets which have recently shown the highest absolute growth in value (on average during the last five years) are markets in close proximity to the UK, namely France and Switzerland. It is notable that the value of the Australian market has grown on average by around £62m and the Chinese by around £45 million per year 2008-12.  The ‘relative’ growth in value on average over the last five years shows the rapid rise in importance of emerging markets China, UAE and Brazil. Whilst both the USA and Japan have shown growth in recent years in terms of visits both markets are considerably smaller than in the 1990s.

The markets which have declined most on average across the last five years in terms of absolute reduction in spending are topped by the large Republic of Ireland market.  The ‘relative’ decline figures show that the value of visits from Greece and Poland have decreased by 11% and 10% respectively on average each year across the last five years.

UK inbound tourism spend growth and decline


Journey Purpose and Seasonal Spread

In 2012 nearly two-in-five inbound visits to the UK were for a holiday (38%), while almost a quarter (24%) were for business.  Looking at the share of visitor nights by journey purpose it is clear that trips to visit friends or relatives (VFR) account for the largest share (39%), thanks to the fact that these trips involve a longer than average length of stay.

By contrast VFR trips account for a lower share of inbound visitor spend (21%) than they do of visits (29%), while holiday and business spending (40% and 24% respectively) are in line with their respective share of visits (38% and 24%).

In 2012 the period April to September accounted for over three in five holiday visits (30% April to June, 32% July to September), whilst only around one-in-six (17%) were in the first three months of the year.  By contrast business visits show a more even seasonal spread (23%-27%), while VFR trips are more likely to take place in the last two quarters of the year (27%, 26%) than the January to March (21%) period.

2012 purpose by season  see

Mode of Travel

The UK enjoys excellent global connectivity, with well over 100 countries having direct air connections to the UK in 2012.  It can be seen from the pie chart that in 2012 almost three quarters of inbound visitors reached the UK by air.

As visitors who travel by air tend to spend more per visit than those using other means of transport the share of visitor spend accounted for by visitors who fly to the UK stood at 84% in 2012.

Visitors who do not travel by air are almost evenly split between those who travel by ferry (14%) or use the Channel Tunnel (13%).

Air – 73%

Tunnel -13%

Sea – 14%


Distribution by area

London is a key destination for inbound visitors to the UK.  In 2012 15.5 million visitors spent time in the capital, spending over £10bn.  This represents 54% of all inbound visitor spending.

The rest of England attracted 12.8 million inbound visitors who spent an estimated £6.2bn, representing 33% of all inbound visitor spend.  Scotland attracted 2.2 million visitors and 8% of all visitor spending, with the equivalent figures for Wales being 0.9 million visits and 2% of visitor spend.  The ‘other’ category includes visits to the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, along with those visitors whose nights in the UK were spent travelling.

Note that some 1.8 million visitors from overseas made ‘day trips’ to the UK in 2012, with these visits generating £301 million of spending.


London    16.8 million visits. £11,256 million
England    13.6 million visits. £7,141 million
Scotland    2.4 million visits. £1,680 million
Wales    0.9 million visits. £353 million
Northern Ireland   0.4 million visits. £208 million




Data country by country, from VisitBritain



The USA is Britain’s third most important market for volume of visits and top for the amount spent by visitors.

France is Britain’s most important market for volume of visits and the second most important for the amount spent by visitors.

Germany is Britain’s second most important market for volume of visits and third for the amount spent by visitors.

Australia is Britain’s tenth most important market for volume of visits and fourth for the amount spent by visitors.

Switzerland is Britain’s 11th most important market for volume of visits and 10th for the amount spent by visitors.

The Netherlands is Britain’s fifth most important market for volume of visits and eighth for the amount spent by visitors.

Spain is Britain’s sixth most important market for both volume of visits and the amount spent by visitors.

Italy is Britain’s seventh most important market for both volume of visits and the amount spent by visitors.

Japan is Britain’s 24th most important market for volume of visits and 17th for the amount spent by visitors.

China is Britain’s 28th most important market for volume of visits and 19th for the amount spent by visitors.

Hong Kong is Britain’s 38th most important market for volume of visits and 27th for the amount spent by visitors.

Brazil is Britain’s 22nd most important market for volume of visits and 24th for the amount spent by visitors

India is Britain’s 16th most important market for volume of visits and 15th for the amount spent by visitors.

Canada is Britain’s 14th most important market for volume of visits and ninth for the amount spent by visitors.

Russia is Britain’s 25th most important market for volume of visits and 22nd for the amount spent by visitors.

Austria is Britain’s 19th most important market for volume of visits and 32nd for the amount spent by visitors.

…….. and there is data on many more at




“British Tourism: job creation powerhouse”

16th November 2013   (Visit Britain press release)

  • Tourism economy set to grow 3.8% per annum – faster than manufacturing, construction and retail
  • Currently worth £127bn and growing to £257bn by 2025 – 10% of UK GDP
  • Supporting 3 million jobs throughout the UK in 2013 (9.6% of UK employment)
  • Accounted for one third of net increase in UK jobs between 2010 and 2012 (175,000 additional jobs) – and forecast to grow to 3.7 million jobs by 2025
  • Inbound tourism the driving force of growth
  • .

Tourism’s central role in creating new jobs across Britain has been underlined in a report today from Deloitte, Tourism: jobs and growth’, commissioned by VisitBritain. [Report by Deloitte and Oxford Economics, though Oxford Economics is well known for using extravagant multipliers for their job and economic benefits estimates.  AW comment]

Since 2010 tourism has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK in employment terms, responsible for one-third of the net increase in UK jobs between 2010 and 2012. Recent employment growth in the sector has been ‘stellar’ over this period says the report – more than four times the rate of manufacturing.

The report forecasts that the tourism economy will be worth around £127 billion this year (2013), equivalent to 9% of the UK’s GDP. It supports over 3 million jobs, that’s 9.6% of all jobs and 173,000 more than in 2010. The sector is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 3.8% through to 2025 – significantly faster than the overall UK economy (with a predicted annual rate of 3% per annum) and much faster than sectors such as manufacturing, construction and retail.

Britain will have a tourism industry worth over £257 billion by 2025 – just under 10% of UK GDP and supporting over 3.7 million jobs, which will be around 11% of the total UK employment. Those jobs would be distributed throughout the UK – for while urban areas such as London, Birmingham or Edinburgh have the highest number of jobs in tourism, the relative level of tourism-related jobs tends to be higher in our rural and coastal areas. During this period of job creation, productivity in the tourism sector is also expected to increase by 2% per annum.

Deloitte has examined the relationship between the rise in tourism spending and job numbers. They have found that every £54,000 increase in spending in the sector creates a new tourism job in the UK.
Tourism’s impact is amplified through the economy, so its influence is much wider than just the direct spending of tourists. Deloitte estimates the tourism GVA multiplier to be 2.2, meaning that for every £1000 generated in direct tourism GVA there is a further £1200 that is secured elsewhere in the economy through the supply chain.
Inbound tourism 

Inbound tourism will continue to be the fastest growing tourism sector, with spend by international visitors forecast to grow by over 6% a year. The value of inbound tourism is forecast to grow from over £21bn in 2013 to £57bn by 2025, with the UK seeing an international tourism balance of payments surplus within a decade – almost forty years since the UK last reported a surplus.

If Britain were to become as successful as its European competitors in the new emerging growth markets for tourism (such as China), with further investment it could increase the value of inbound tourism by an additional £12bn by 2025 – an increase to £69bn or over 20% on the base forecast.

Christopher Rodrigues, VisitBritain Chairman said:“Tourism has become a bedrock of the UK economy – generating a third of the UK’s net new jobs between 2010 and 2012 – and still has the ability to grow at levels that will lead other industries out of the economic slowdown.

“Deloitte’s report suggests that by 2025 Britain could have an industry worth over £257 billion (56% more than in 2013 in real terms) supporting 3.8 million jobs – across the country and at all skill levels.
“Inbound tourism is already one of Britain’s top export industries and will continue to be the fastest growing sector of the industry, with spend by international visitors forecast to grow by over 6% a year.

“Inbound tourism’s record performance since the Olympics bodes well for the future but to achieve the industry’s full potential we need to continue to raise our game, marry policy and marketing and promote Britain even more aggressively overseas.”

Minister for Tourism, Helen Grant, added:“We have showcased the best of Britain to the world in the last three years with some massive, memorable events, creating a huge boost for the tourism industry. More visitors are flying in and spending record amounts of cash and it’s clear that the size of the prize going forward is big. Tourism can continue to play an increasingly important role in Britain’s economic recovery, with jobs created and real career opportunities for many.”






This is the VisitBritain Market Overview of China:

Market Overview – dated November 2013

Key insights from the Market SnapshotLatest Insights and General Market Conditions chapters

Click on the link to go straight to the full Market Profile

Global Context

  • International tourism expenditure (US$bn): 102
  • Global rank for international tourism expenditure: 1
  • Number of outbound visits (m): 46.8
  • Most visited destination: Hong Kong

Inbound to the UK in 2012

  • 179,000 visits, accounting for 0.6% of all overseas visits to the UK
  • 4 million nights, accounting for 1.7% of all nights in the UK by overseas visitors
  • £300m spent, accounting for 1.6% of the total spent whilst in the UK by overseas visitors
  • Compared to five years ago there has been a 25% increase in visits, a 40% increase in nights and a 69% increase in spend

Latest Insights

  • China’s new tourism law kicked in at the beginning of October, seeking to better protect tourists from misleading pricing and practices engaged in by some travel businesses. While there have been grumbles from the trade about a downturn in business this autumn due to the necessity of increasing tour prices to make up for the abolition of tours sold below cost that then included forced tipping or shopping trips to generate commission, the China National Tourism Administration has commented that this in fact shows that the law has had a positive impact and that the market is currently normalising, with any temporary downturn feeding into the long-term health of the industry. However, examples are already being cited of travel businesses managing to skirt the new regulation by rebranding tours as independent travel packages — only for travellers to find themselves part of a larger group of ‘independent’ travellers when they arrive at their destination.
  • Media coverage was all positive on the latest alterations made to the British visa application process, announced during George Osborne’s visit to China in October. Three key measures were announced, namely the introduction of a pilot scheme allowing selected Chinese travel agents to apply for UK visas by submitting the EU’s Schengen visa form, the implementation of a new 24-hour ‘super priority’ visa service from summer 2014, and consideration of the expansion of the VIP mobile visa service beyond Beijing and Shanghai to the rest of the country, sending visa teams to applicants in order to collect their forms and biometric data.

General Market Conditions

  • China’s population of 1.3 billion is still growing at 0.5% per annum
  • More than 400,000 UK residents describe their ethnicity as Chinese
  • In 2011/12 almost 80,000 Chinese born students were enrolled to UK Higher Education establishments
  • China is expected to account for 19% of the global economy by 2018 and is now the world’s largest producer and consumer of cars
  • By 2022 the number of urban households that can be described as ‘affluent’ or ‘upper middle class’ is set to number 225 million
  • There are an estimated 643,000 High Net Worth Individuals in China, with the typical millionaire aged in their late 30s and most saying that they intend to send their children abroad for at least part of their education
  • While English is taught at school those most proficient tend to be found working in companies that frequently deal with western countries
  • The ‘Mid Autumn Festival’ is an increasingly popular time for taking a foreign trip

Download the full Market Profile for comprehensive coverage on these topics.