2014: Another record year for tourism, but China concerns linger
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2014: Another record year for tourism, but China concerns linger

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The tourism industry racked up record inbound figures for 2014, with the latest figures showing visitor numbers and spending broke new ground.

The most recent International Passenger Survey statistics show that overseas visitors spent £21.7bn in Britain last year, a three per cent increase on 2013 and a new record in both nominal and real terms. Meanwhile, the number of inbound visits reached a record 34.8 million, up by nearly 2 million – 6 per cent – on 2013.

But despite the positive figures, there was one area for concern. Visits from China – a market that VisitBritain has been targeting with a number of tourism initiatives – fell 7 per cent year-on-year. One well-placed industry observer told Leisure Opportunities that the drop, coming at a time when the Chinese outbound tourism market continues to grow, suggests the government’s visa policy is in need of a revamp.

The overall inbound tourism gains were powered by a strong showing from North America – Britain’s most valuable tourism source market – which delivered annual visit growth of 4 per cent in 2014 to reach 3.7 million, making it the best year for visits since 2008. As part of the continued focus on this key market, VisitBritain is currently running its Countryside is GREAT campaign in the US to boost visits to a wider range of locations across the country.

With 2015 also forecast to be a record year industry analysts observed that the outlook for inbound tourism looks likely to remain rosey at least for the medium term.

“The UK’s enduring appeal as a leading tourist destination doesn’t appear to be suffering from the strength of sterling with almost 2.5 million overseas visitors spending nearly £2bn here in December 2014 alone,” said Mike Saul, head of Hospitality and Leisure at Barclays.

“With last year seeing a 7 per cent increase in visitors from Europe, and a 6 per cent increase in tourists generally, it chimes well with Barclays research forecasting overseas tourist spend in the UK to grow by 34 per cent to £27bn by 2017.”

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The tourism industry racked up record inbound figures for 2014, with the latest figures showing visitor numbers and spending broke new ground.
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