A record number of holiday visitors - spending a record amount of money - came to the UK in 2011, according to figures released today by VisitBritain.
Overseas visitor numbers increased 3%, year-on-year, to 30.6 million last year, with just under 12 million being accounted for by a record number of holiday visits. Visitors spent a record £17.8b whilst here, up 5% on 2010 and amounting to an average spend of £580 per visit.
The increase in spend has been helped by the pound being more favourable than it has been for many years, providing visitors with excellent value for money.
Emerging markets such as Brazil (up 51%), Russia (20%) and China (32%) have been helping to drive the visitor growth. Arrivals from North America have increased 4%, the highest levels seen since 2008, while European markets have largely remained the same from 2010, with just a 1% increase over the year.
These figures have meant Britain's tourism balance of payments deficit decreased by the equivalent of £1.6b, down 11% from the previous year.
While 2011 saw record levels of holidays visits, there has also been an improvement in business travel on the previous year with arrivals up 6%.
Patricia Yates, VisitBritain director of strategy and communications said: "As we look back on a positive 2011 for both holiday visits and spend, we want to make sure we capitalise on these gains by helping boost jobs across the country and create a lasting tourism legacy for many years to come.
"We have had three straight years of declining arrival figures, so for 2011 to show a return to growth, with 800,000 more overseas visitors coming to Britain than was the case in 2010. These visitors spent almost £18b while they were here in Britain, which is a 5% increase and a record contribution to the UK economy.
"For the very first time we welcomed around 12 million holiday visitors to the UK and we are encouraged that the along with vital long-term growth markets helping our positive return, that the number of visitors coming to Britain from North America has risen. This is significant as we earn very nearly twice as from US visitors than we do from any other source market."
By Janet Harmer
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