National tourism agency VisitBritain has painted a gloomy picture of the state of UK tourism based on latest international visitor figures.
The number of overseas visitors to the UK during May was down 14% on last year while the number of visitors for the first five months of this year decreased by 12%.
Total spending over the first five months of 2009 was 3% lower than last year in nominal terms.
Visits to the UK over the same period from EU15 countries were down by 5%; from North America, 19%; Accession countries, 31% and from remaining parts of the world by 15%.
A serious decline in business travel is reported to be the greatest factor influencing figures as holiday trips from overseas continue to perform well.
VisitBritain said the decline in visitor numbers and spending was certainly not unexpected.
"The figures illustrate the continuing challenges of maintaining Britain's popularity as a destination as the global economic downturn began to bite and in the face of increasing competition from rival destinations," spokesman said.
"We will be doing all we can to remind international visitors of the many quality experiences they can enjoy here."
On the plus side, sterling was 11% weaker against the Euro and 21% weaker against the US Dollar in May 2009 compared to May 2008, which means most visitors' currencies are going further with each visitor spending more on average.
"There are positive signs for 2009 as a weak pound offers value for money that other countries can't match," VisitBritain said.
"The figures also give us further evidence that Brits are taking fewer breaks abroad, which could prove a boom to the domestic tourism industry."
By Emma White
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