A record-breaking number of tourists have flocked to the UK in the year so far

Courtney Goldsmith
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Ranbow Over Tower Bridge
More and more tourists are swarming to the UK (Source: Getty)

The number of tourists visiting the UK has soared in the year so far to reach a new record high as a weaker pound continues to make Britain a more attractive destination, according to official figures.

There were a whopping 11.8m inbound visits to the UK from January to April this year, up 11 per cent against the same period in 2016, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). And they weren't penny pinching. Tourists have spent an all-time high of £6.2bn so far in 2017, up 14 per cent.

Growth this year spurred from long-haul regions like North America, with visits up 16 per cent to 1m compared with the same period last year. Another record was broken by EU visitors, who increased by seven per cent to 8.3m.

In April alone, an Easter boost meant 3.7m foreign visits were made to the UK, up 19 per cent compared with April 2016. This marked the highest number of tourists in April on record, led by increased visits from North Americans.

Visitors in April spent an all-time high of £2bn, up 20 per cent on the previous year.

Despite the help from a later Easter, Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY Item Club, said there is a clear underlying increase in foreign visits to the UK.

Patricia Yates, director of tourism firm Visit Britain, said: “Tourism is one of Britain’s most valuable export industries and it is very encouraging to see this continued growth as we head into the peak summer season and beyond. We continue to drive home the message of value and welcome globally, particularly in our high spending markets China and the US and the valuable European market."

The UK's £127bn tourism market is expected to take a hit due to a number of terror attacks in recent months.

Demand for day-trips was softer in the domestic market after recent terror attacks, and that has the company behind Alton Towers and Legoland, Merlin Entertainments, cautious on trends in foreign visitation over the coming months.

UK companies that are more exposed to tourist spending are highly likely to outperform in the stock market this year versus those with a higher dependency on domestic consumers, according to UBS Wealth Management.

“Following the depreciation of the British pound and the pick-up in inflation, we believe the UK domestic consumer is coming under increasing financial pressure. But the outlook is brighter for inbound tourists, who are attracted to the UK by the 12 per cent fall in the pound since the Brexit vote," said Caroline Simmons, deputy head of the UK investment office.

The firm predicted many tourism-related companies could deliver earnings growth of 10 per cent while domestically-exposed stocks will disappoint with flat earnings, driving further relative outperformance.

Read more: London's tourism industry should hold up well in the face of terror

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