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VisitBritain forecasts 2015 to be another record year for tourism

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The UK tourism sector is predicted to continue its strong course of growth in 2015, with records set to tumble for both inbound visitors and spend.

VisitBritain predicts that inbound tourism spend will rise by 4.5 per cent in 2015, with visitors from overseas expected to spend £22.2bn – an increase of almost £1bn on the estimated return for 2014.

“Tourism will continue to be one of the country’s major export earners with VisitBritain playing a critical role in its success,” said VisitBritain CEO Sally Balcombe.

“One of our priorities for 2015 will be to inspire international visits to the nations and regions and showcase Britain’s magnificent countryside.”

The body pointed to its long-running GREAT campaign – which has focused on promoting the best of Britain to world markets – as one of the key drivers of the tourism boom.

“Our GREAT campaign continues to produce results and generated at least £1.8bn from inbound visitors in its first three years, creating economic value and jobs across Britain’s tourism businesses,” added Balcombe.

Other aspects said to be making a significant impact to the tourism industry’s fortunes include a simplified visa system and high spending from key growth markets like China.

Business from Chinese tourists has been particularly strong in the last four years. They spent £492m in 2013, up from £184m in 2010. Over that period the number of visits from Chinese people rose by 79.1 per cent to 196,000. Despite this, industry observers, such as the Tourism Alliance’s Kurt Janson, point out that the UK’s share of outbound travel from China has been falling since 2007 and believe that more needs to be done to streamline visa services.

As well as overall spend, the total number of visits from overseas is expected to increase to 35.1 million trips in 2015, up 2.5 per cent on estimated figures for 2014.

But despite the encouraging numbers, many in the tourism industry feel that the country could do even better with further government support. The Cut Tourism VAT campaign is calling for a VAT reduction from 20 per cent to five per cent for tourism businesses, to place the UK on a level playing field against European competitors. Tourists in the UK currently pay the highest tax rate in Europe and Britain is one of only four EU nations that doesn't offer reduced rates for the tourism sector.

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The UK tourism sector is predicted to continue its strong course of growth in 2015, with records set to tumble for both inbound visitors and spend.
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Sally Balcombe took charge of the UK tourism agency in September 2014
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