ALMOST seven million people visited the UK from overseas this winter, generating a fifth more for the British economy than they did a year earlier.
In the three months to the end of February, 6.95m international visitors splashed out £4.55bn while they were in the country, up 21 per cent on the same period last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
And more Britons went abroad, taking 9.99m trips, though they spent three per cent less than a year ago at £5.4bn.
Figures adjusted for seasonal changes show that the number of foreign visitors to the UK has risen 17.6 per cent over the last two years to almost 3m a month.
European tourists make up around 2.2m of these visitors, with a quarter of a million coming from North America and 446,000 originating from other countries.
Meanwhile, Britons are taking 4.8m trips abroad a month, just 0.5 per cent more than they were in 2012.
Mike Saul, head of hospitality and leisure at Barclays, said the improving economy along with trade bodies promoting Britain as a holiday destination were helping attract more international tourists.
“Similarly, the number of UK holidaymakers heading overseas continues to grow as confidence returns, with consumers booking much earlier and being more adventurous with their choice of destination,” he said.
Visit Britain welcomed yesterday’s figures, which the group’s chief executive Sandie Dawe said “continue to prove that tourism has a key role to play in the wider success of the British economy”.
“And tourism is a major job creator for Britain – for every 18 Chinese visitors who come to Britain an additional job is created in tourism,” she added in a statement.