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Bumper year forecast

Britain poised for record number of tourists in 2020

Asian tourists

Bookings from Asia are up by as much as a third (pic: Terry Murden)

Britain is poised for a bumper invasion of tourists next year, according to forecasts.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, says 2020 is set to be a record year with spending by overseas visitors predicted to reach £26.6 billion, a 6.6% increase on 2019 which is expected to top out at £25bn. 

The number of overseas visits to the UK is forecast to rise in 2020 to 39.7 million, the highest ever, and up 2.9% on 2019 which is expected to see about 38.5 million visits by year end. 

Looking longer-term, during the last decade inbound tourism visits to the UK have grown 33% when comparing 2010 to the 2020 forecast and spending by 58%.

VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries and these results show our continued ability to attract international visitors in a fiercely competitive global market.

“We are seeing success in growing tourism from our long-haul, high-spending markets including the US, our largest and most valuable inbound market, and from markets that are crucial for our future such as China.

“Working with partners globally we are telling customers about experiences they can only have here, converting the inspiration to visit into bookings and driving growth from tourism across the nations and regions, boosting local economies.” 

In 2020 work to embed the Tourism Sector Deal, announced by the UK Government in June 2019, is set to drive major investment and economic delivery, addressing issues from skills and productivity to building stronger tourism destinations across the country. 

VisitBritain is encouraging visitors to travel further and stay longer. It is also working with the tourism industry to inform European visitors about the practicalities of travel and to encourage visits post-Brexit.

Data from ForwardKeys shows that forward flight bookings overall to the UK from December 2019 to May 2020 are up 5% compared to the same period last year. Forward bookings to the UK from China and South Asia are particularly strong, up 33% and 22% respectively. 

Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy, boosting economic growth across its nations and regions. For every 22 inbound visits from China one job is created in Britain’s tourism industry. 

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