The UK tourism industry has been urged to focus on attracting visitors from stronger growth countries after official figures revealed a sharp decline in visits from North America.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there was a 3% drop in visitor numbers to the UK in the three months to September, compared with the previous year, while spending fell 2% to £5.1b.
In the year to date, visits from North America are down 9% to 3.2 million. This is in sharp contrast to the 12 accession countries in Europe, where visitors increased 17% to 2.7 million.
Tim Helliwell, head of hotels at Barclays Commercial Bank, said: "These figures should be something of a wake-up call for the industry to ensure that it becomes more effective in attracting tourists from stronger growth economies, particularly in Asia, which remain largely positive in terms of UK visitor numbers."
The ONS figures follow a Deloitte report on tourism this week, which warns that 114,000 jobs and £11bn could be at risk from the recession over the next three years.
Another report from consultancy PriceWaterhouseCoopers, released today, warns that London hotels face the worst economic conditions in 15 years.
The report reveals that London revenue per available room is set to fall almost 12% in 2009, from £94.28 in 2008 to £82.92, as companies cut costs and consumers spend less.
By Daniel Thomas
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