UK Inbound Tourism Sees An Upward Trend for Visits, Spending in 2024

| December 27, 2023
UK Inbound Tourism Sees An Upward Trend for Visits, Spending in 2024

Tourism in the United Kingdom (UK) is predicted to be on an upward trend, according to a forecast by VisitBritain. 

VisitBritain is the UK national tourism agency. It is responsible for marketing Britain worldwide and developing Britain’s visitor economy.

In its tourism forecast 2024, released on 20 December 2024, UK tourism showed an increase in inbound visits and overall spending compared to 2023 levels. 

The overall forecast for spending by international visitors in the UK in 2024 is £34.1 billion. It is up by seven percent on the spending predicted in 2023, which is at £31.7 billion spent.

The spending forecast is also up 20 percent in 2019 before the pandemic. However, when adjusted for inflation, the 2023 numbers are only 96 percent of 2019 levels.

For the number of visits to the UK, VisitBritian predicts the number to be 39.5 million in 2024. This is a 5 percent increase from the expected 37.8 million in 2023. However, the figures are still 3% lower than in 2019.

VisitBritain predicts that inbound tourism will recover to 2019 levels by early 2025. This is both in terms of the number of visits and spending by international visitors.

Major contributors to UK’s inbound tourism

Visits and tourist spending in the UK may be up from 2023. However, there are still varying recovery and growth rates across its major inbound visitor markets.

The United States (US) leads the recovery in UK tourism. American visitor spending in 2023 reached a record-breaking 28 percent increase from 2019, even when adjusted for inflation. 

“International visitors spend tens of billions of pounds in the UK with the money generated supporting local economies and jobs,” said VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates.

She added, “So it has been great to see the double-digit growth in spending from the US as well as the overall growth forecast for next year on 2023.”

VisitBritain anticipates the US market to be valued at £6.7 billion in 2024. It predicts that American visitors will contribute nearly £1 in every £5 of all inbound spending.

China, the UK’s second most valuable inbound market in 2019, is gradually recovering, with visitor numbers increasing throughout 2023. 

Overall, East Asia’s recovery has been relatively slower. VisitBritain predicts China’s value will reach £1.7 billion in 2024, making it the UK’s fourth most valuable inbound visitor market.

The recovery pace from Europe slowed after the first half of 2023, with spending remaining just below 2019’s, based on the latest data.

This is likely due to fierce tourism competition from neighboring European destinations. 

UK 2024 tourism campaigns

Britain’s tourism is a vital sector, contributing significantly to its economy as the third largest service export.

For 2024, VisitBritain outlined its major tourism campaigns, inspiring visitors to discover more of Britain, stay longer, and come now. Its goal is to drive spending to Britain and spread tourism’s economic benefits across more UK destinations

International campaigns will focus on solid growth markets like Australia and the US. It will also target major European markets and valuable Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

According to VisitBritain’s research, one of the primary factors influencing visitors’ choice of destination is its welcoming nature.

Its campaigns will highlight vibrant cities, contemporary culture, and Britain’s beautiful coast and countryside. This also means more destinations across Britain will feel the economic effects of tourism. 

The UK national tourism agency will also tap into the power of screen tourism. Its research showed that films and TV are powerful motivators and inspirations for travel. 

Screen tourism, also known as film tourism, refers to the phenomenon of a location becoming popular with travelers because it was featured in a movie or television show.

Incorporating this into its campaign, VisitBritian will showcase spotlight film and TV locations, destinations, and visitor experiences. 

VisitBritain has also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the British Film Commission to boost screen tourism throughout the UK’s nations and regions.

End-of-year visits and spending statistics

The latest official statistics available from the Office for National Statistics regarding inbound tourism to the UK cover the period from January to September 2023. 

According to these statistics, there were approximately 28.2 million inbound visits to the UK during this period, and overseas visitors spent a total of £23.0 billion in the UK.

Additionally, the latest data shows that average visitor spending in 2023 to date was £817 per visit, which is higher than the £684 recorded in 2019. 

Visitors are also staying longer, with an average stay of 7.3 nights compared to 6.4 nights in 2019.