VisitBritain has hailed the success of its GREAT marketing campaign, after ONS figures showed a record annual inbound tourism spend in 2013.
Overseas visitors spent £21b in 2013, some 13% more than the previous record from 2012 (£18.64 billion). The figure is the highest seen in any 12-month period in nominal terms, and the first time the £20b mark has been passed.
There were also 32.89 million visits from overseas in 2013, 6% more than in 2012, exceeding the previous calendar year record set in 2007 (32.78 million).
Visits from all world regions and for all main journey purposes showed growth compared with 2012, with the 2013 records largely driven by a particularly strong summer and early autumn. The calendar year also saw record levels for holiday visits (7% above 2012 and 6% above the previous record from 2011).
Business and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) visits both saw their best calendar year since 2008, with business visits up 7% and VFR up 5% on 2012. Last year also saw record visits for a calendar year from ‘Rest of World' markets (outside Europe / North America), with 10% more visits from these typically high spending visitors than in 2012.
The high volume EU15 markets saw an increase of 5% in visits in 2013 compared with 2012, making it the best calendar year since 2007, though not a record. Visits from other EU markets saw a notable increase (+15%) in 2013 compared with 2012 but visits were just below record levels.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive at VisitBritain, said: "Not only have we managed to surpass the £20b barrier for the very first time, but we've broken records for holidaymakers and visitors from key growth markets such as China and South Korea.
"Our international tourists are starting to see and do more across the country, which tells us that our GREAT campaign is not only working, but influencing travel too. Holiday figures are up across the whole of Britain, with robust growth for Scotland, Wales, Rest of England and London.
"Every pound invested in our tourism marketing results in visitors spending £19 in this country. The financial benefits from inbound tourism are clear for everyone to see."
Minister for Tourism Helen Grant said: "Overseas visitors spent more in Britain than ever before last year and that shows our tourism strategy is working. With nearly £21b spent, it also demonstrates the significant contribution the tourism industry is making to the country's economic recovery. We will continue to support the sector and promote Britain to the world as a great place to visit and do business with."
The GREAT marketing campaign, which sees Government funding matched by that from industry, aims to add £2.3b to the UK economy by 2015.
Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays said: "Another set of positive figures underline how attractive a destination the UK continues to be for tourists. With visitor numbers and spend rising year on year, the strength of the UK brand stands firm and we are seeing a big pick up in forward bookings as we go into 2014.
"Similarly, as confidence returns to the UK, holidaymakers are committing themselves to more discretionary spend with the short break holiday a favoured choice. Add to that an upsurge in more high-end spend that we are seeing and operators in the sector are more optimistic for the year ahead."