UK Climbs to 3rd Place in International Tourism Earnings for 2023

| June 19, 2024
UK Climbs to 3rd Place in International Tourism Earnings for 2023

The United Kingdom’s (UK’s) tourism industry had a stellar year in 2023, rising to be the third-highest-earning nation from international travelers.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report, the UK raked in an impressive £58 billion ($74 billion) in tourism receipts last year.

The UK rose to claim the third spot from 5th before the pandemic in 2019.

The country also ranked in the top 10 list of most-visited destinations worldwide.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland collectively received over 51 million international arrivals.

After a few challenging years, Britain’s tourism revival in 2023 highlights its continued appeal as a global travel hotspot.

The Brits also ranked fourth in tourism spending, paying £85 billion ($110 billion) on international holidays in 2023.

Other top tourism destinations and earners in 2023

The rest of the global top spots for most visited countries and highest earners remained essentially the same as in previous years.

France consolidated its position as the world’s most visited destination last year.

The host of the upcoming Olympics welcomed a staggering 100 million foreign tourists in 2023.

Spain took second place with 85 million arrivals, followed by the United States (US) with 66 million.

Closing the top five are Italy, which received 57 million tourists, and Türkiye, with 55 million international tourists.

Other most-visited destinations in the top ten are Mexico, the UK, Germany, Greece, and Austria.

Compared to before the pandemic, the UK rose from tenth to seventh, while Greece rose from 13th to ninth.

The rest of the top ten, Italy, Türkiye, Mexico, Germany, and Austria, all rose one position higher compared to their 2019 rankings.

Meanwhile, the US maintained its top spot in profits from international visitors, earning £138 billion ($176 billion) in tourism receipts in 2023.

Spain claimed second place with £72 billion ($92 billion) in earnings from international tourism.

The UK’s £58 billion ($74 billion) put it ahead of France’s £54 billion ($69 billion) for third and Italy’s £44 billion ($56 billion) for fifth.

Other nations that earned the most from international tourism are the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Türkiye, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Macao (China), India, and Mexico.

The highest-spending tourists of 2023

On the other side of the equation, Chinese tourists spent the most on global travel in 2023.

As pandemic restrictions eased, they easily outspent all other countries, spending over £155 billion ($196.5 billion) on international trips.

American travelers were the second biggest spenders on international tourism, shelling out £155 billion ($150 billion) abroad.

Claiming the third spot is Germany, whose citizens spent £88 billion ($112 billion).

The Brits ranked fourth, while the French were the fifth highest spenders, spending £88 billion ($49 billion) on international tourism.

The other top spending nations were Canada, Italy, India, Russia, South Korea, and India.

India jumped from 14th place in 2019 to eighth place in 2023, while Italy rose from tenth to seventh position.

International tourism in the UK keeps surging

VisitBritain, the UK’s national tourism agency, reported that its marketing efforts and industry partnerships over the past two years have paid off.

These efforts have led to international visitors spending an additional £1.26 billion ($1.58 billion) across the country.

As per its news release, for every £1 invested in promoting UK tourism, visitors have spent an extra £15 locally.

VisitBritain’s forecast shows this positive momentum continuing in 2024.

It predicts that international visitor spending will increase five percent over 2023 levels to hit £32.5 billion ($40.7 billion).

International visitor arrivals are forecast at 38.7 million, up two percent from 2023.

Over one-third of British residents prefer domestic vacations over traveling overseas in the next year, indicating sustained high demand.

Nick de Bois, chair of the British Tourist Authority, stated that the double-digit growth in visitor spending and optimistic forecast are fantastic.

The US remains the UK’s largest and most valuable tourism market, projected to be worth $6.3 billion to Britain in 2024.

UK tourism will also focus on Australia, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and its major European markets.

However, de Bois also cautioned that the pace of tourism recovery after the pandemic had slowed.

This was mainly due to the “fierce competition” from European neighbors.

De Bois said in a news release that the UK “ranks highly for its history and heritage and contemporary culture and sport.”

However, it is not that well-known as a destination with “natural beauty and perceived welcome.”

“To counter this, VisitBritain’s international GREAT campaigns promote Britain’s welcome,” de Bois stressed. 

The program’s aim is “inspiring visitors to discover more, stay longer, and drive that sense of urgency to come now,”  he said.

Moving up the tourism rankings

Several factors contributed to the UK’s rising tourism fortunes in 2023.

The loosening of COVID-19 travel restrictions has increased demand from key British visitor markets, such as the US and Western Europe.

Additionally, a weakened pound made the UK more affordable for travelers.

Booming trends such as “set-jetting” have sparked interest in visiting filming locations of popular shows.

The UNWTO predicts global international tourist arrivals will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

The UK is well-positioned to capitalize on the global tourism resurgence with its renowned cities, historic sites, and natural beauty.