Britain attracted a record-breaking 8.3 million visits from foreign tourists in the three months to September 2004, according to the government's latest International Passenger Survey.
The number of overseas trips made between July and September was 10% higher than the figure reported in the same quarter of 2003.
"The latest statistics on inbound international visitors confirm recent reports that Britain is outperforming its European competitors in terms of the growth in the number of trips," said VisitBritain chief executive Tom Wright.
The new figures support forecasts from VisitBritain that the country will see a record-smashing 26.3 million trips from overseas visitors by the end of the year.
The increase was fuelled by a 10% rise in trips from both Western Europe (to 5 million) and the rest of the world (to 1.85 million), and a 9% increase in visits from North America to 1.4 million.
Spend grew at the lower rate of 3% to £4.1b, although September saw a year-on-year dip from £1.2b to £1.18b.
VisitBritain believes the current weakness of the dollar against the pound is deterring traditionally high-spending American visitors from dipping so deeply into their wallets.
Overseas visits in the 12 months to September grew by 11% to 26.97m, with double-digit growth in all markets. Spend grew by 7% to £12.6b.
- The British Incoming Tour Operators Association (BITOA) has changed its name to UKinbound. The organisation, which was founded in 1977, represents 260 inbound tourism operators.
by Angela Frewin
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