New figures showing a significant recovery in travellers coming to the UK are "encouraging", according to the chief executive of VisitBritain, Sandie Dawes.
However, she said that major challenges remain and that there is still some way to go before the record numbers of visits seen in 2007 return.
Issued by the Office for National Statistics, the figures show that the number of overseas residents coming to Britain in July 2010 was 5% higher than July 2009, and the value of what they spent was 2% higher.
While holiday visits remained steady over the past year, there was an increase of 8% for the three months to July and a 7% decline in visits to friends and relatives, compared with the same period in 2009.
Meanwhile, business visits have shown an increase of 3% so far this year, after steep declines last year.
"It is particularly encouraging to see that inbound holiday tourism began to grow again in the past three months," said Dawes.
"The highly attractive exchange rate for sterling is a key factor behind this trend because it is making the UK very affordable for European and US travellers, a fact that VisitBritian is making a great deal of in its promotions overseas.
"It has now become well established that the value of spending by foreign visitors is growing at a faster rate than the volume of visitors, because the good rate tourists are getting is enabling them to spend more when they get here."
Dawes was speaking as VisitBritain launched its latest annual review which concluded that the longer term prospects for attracting more foreign tourists to the UK appeared to be looking positive.
In his foreword to the review, VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues said that spending by incoming visitors is forecast to almost double to £31b over the next decade. But he warned that the competition from other countries to entice overseas travellers is getting tougher, with many more destinations being developed and foreign governments increasingly investing in their tourism industries.
"In Britain we have for many years treated tourism as a golden goose that will lay eggs without being nurtured or fed," said Rodrigues. "That puts the growth potential of our industry at risk.
"We can only hope that with a new government, the tide may be turning. With continued investment by the industry and focused government support, the industry can be one of Britain's best performing sectors over the next decade."
Rodrigues said that VisitBritain was well placed to harness the 2012 Olympics to create a permanent tourism legacy and to help Britain regain its position in the top five tourism destinations in the world.
By Janet Harmer
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