The UK is expecting a rise in overseas visitors during Christmas and into the New Year according to analysis from VisitBritain, with forward flight bookings to the UK overall showing a rise of 9% between Sunday 23 December 2018 and Saturday 5 January 2019 compared to the same period last year.
Bookings to the UK from China, the Middle East and the US are particularly strong, showing double-digit increases, up 44%, 59% and 27% respectively.
The increase in bookings from some of the UK’s most valuable long-haul visitor markets echoes a longer-term trend.
Forward bookings from the US to the UK for December 2018 to May 2019 are up 27% compared with the same period previously. The US is the UK’s most valuable inbound visitor market for tourism spend. Visitors from the US spent a record £3.6 billion across the UK in 2017, up 9% on the previous year. Visits from the US grew 13% to 3.9 million in 2017, the highest since 2000.
Bookings from China, the world’s most valuable outbound visitor market, are up 25% for December 2018 to May 2019. China moved into the UK’s top 10 most valuable inbound visitor markets last year with visits reaching a record 337,000, up 29% on 2016, and spend up 35% to an all-time high of £694 million. For every 22 visits from China, one job is created in the UK’s tourism industry.
Longer-term bookings are also tracking ahead from the Middle East to the UK, up 10% for December this year to May 2019. Visitors from the Middle East are some of the UK’s highest spenders. Visitors from the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries spent £2733 on average in the UK in 2017, more than four times the all market average of £625.
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said: “Tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries and needs no trade deals to attract overseas investment. It is also a fiercely competitive global industry and people have a lot of choice. We want the UK to be the number one destination for global travellers, so it is great to see forward bookings looking strong in the coming weeks and months from some of our most valuable long-haul visitor markets.”
Tourism Minister Michael Ellis said: “The UK is one of the world’s must-visit destinations and the increase in forward bookings reflects the strength of our tourism sector.
“We are committed to supporting this important industry and are progressing negotiations for a Tourism Sector Deal to drive long-term economic growth and investment in accommodation and attractions across the country.”