A record number of overseas visitors travelled to the UK during April, up 19.4% to 32.7 million compared with the same month last year.
New figures published by VisitBritain showed that the increase was driven by the rise in holiday trips and visit to friends and relatives by 42.2% and 22.4% respectively, while businesses trips fell by 12.3%.
Overseas visitors spent a record £20b during April, up 20% year-on-year.
It appears that travellers were not deterred from travelling to the UK as a result of the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack on 25 March, but it remains to be seen what will be the impact of subsequent attacks in Manchester on 22 May and London Bridge on 3 June.
Patricia Yates, director of VisitBritain, said: “Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and it is very encouraging to see this continued growth as we head into the peak summer season and beyond. We continue to drive home the message of value and welcome globally, particularly in our high spending markets China and the US and the valuable European market.”
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association added that the strong tourism figures had been bolstered by the Easter holidays, a weak performance in April 2016 and the weak pound.
“The low rate of sterling presents a great opportunity but we cannot and should not rely on fluctuating rates in the long term,” she said.
“With political and economic uncertainty increasing, it is more important than ever to ensure that UK tourism can compete. The UK continues to have a 20% VAT rate on tourism which is twice the average rate across Europe. Alongside businesses investing in the apprenticeship levy, rising business rates and the threat of online platforms such as Airbnb, this signals concern for businesses in the industry.”
April’s tourism figures brings the number of inbound visits to the UK for the first four months of the year up to a record 11.8 million, up 11% and increase on the same period in 2016. Visitor spend during the period was also record-breaking, up 14% to £6.2b.
The growth has been led from long-haul regions, including North America, which has produced more than one million visits from January to April, a 16% year-on-year increase.
There were also a record 8.3 million visits from the EU during the four months, up 7% on 2016.
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