Condor Ferries



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UK TOURISM Statistics 2020-2021


Explore UK Tourism Trends & Statistics on Inbound Tourism, Spend, Employment, Popular Tourist Destinations & more!


Tourism contributes £106 billion to the British economy & GDP and supports 2.6 million jobs. By 2025 the UK tourism industry will be worth over £257 billion, around 10% of the UK GDP. The industry supports 3.8 million jobs and has a huge impact on the UK economy.


In 2018, 37.9 million tourists visited the UK, but this reached an all-time high in 2017 with 39.2 million! In July 2019 alone, £2.9 billion was spent here by overseas residents, demonstrating how substantial tourism is to the economy. USA residents visit the most as 3,877,000 people visited in 2018, closely followed by France. Tourism in London statistics demonstrates the popularity of the capital in comparison to other locations in the UK as the city has 8 times more visitors than the second most visited city. Holidays is the number one reason as to why tourists visit the UK, 63% of visits to the UK are for a holiday away.


Read on for more UK tourism statistics & latest industry data.



Tourism is the fastest growing industry in Britain. It is expected to expand by 3.8% a year up until 2025, accounting for 10% of all jobs.

£22.5 billion was spent by overseas travellers in the UK in 2016.

Inbound tourism statistics recorded 37.9 million inbound visits to the UK in 2018,  3% less than 2017 which had 39.2 million.

118.6 million domestic overnight trips were made in the UK in 2018, down 2% vs. 2017.

Two million jobs are created by the UK travel industry.

9% of the UK’s GDP is generated by tourism.

Inbound tourism to the UK has been recorded at £50 billion.

7 million overseas residents visited in April 2027. This is a 19% increase from the previous year.

The number of outbound visitors from the UK totaled 72.8 million in 2018, a fall of 1% in 2017.

Spain was the most popular destination for UK tourists, attracting 22% of all visitors.

By 2025, the tourism industry in the United Kingdom is set to be worth over £257 billion.

53% of the inbound visitor spend is accounted for in London, the rest of England accounts for 35%, Scotland 8% and Wales 2%.

A record-breaking £24.5 billion was spent by 2 million overseas visitors.

Overseas visitors to the UK reached 7 million in 2018, a 4.4% increase from 2017.

There was a decline of inbound visitors to the UK in 2018 falling 3% to 9 million. Spending also fell by 7% to £22.9 billion.

2019 is set for a return to growth, with spending up 7% to £24.5 billion and inbound visits up 3% to 9 million.

Inbound tourism is set to grow from £21 billion in 2013 to £57 billion by 2025.

UK tourism accounts for 7.2% of UK GDP.



How many tourists visit the UK each year?

The United Kingdom ranked seventh in the UNWTO international arrivals league and accounted for 2.8% of global arrivals in 2017.

2017 had the highest number of visitors in one year (39.2 million). This is almost two-thirds of the population of the UK.

The United Kingdom ranked fifth place in the UNWTO international tourism earnings league in 2017.

There were 37.9 million visits to the UK in 2018.

Travellers from the US contribute most to the travel industry in the United Kingdom. 3.9 million American tourists visited in 2018 and spent a collective £3.4 billion.

The USA, France, and Germany were the top markets in terms of the number of visits to the UK, accounting for 29% of visits in 2018. These markets also accounted for 27% of all overseas visitor spend.

Visits to the UK for holidays reached a new record in June 2019 with 1.6 million inbound holiday visits (up 18%).

4 million people visited the UK in July 2019.

54% of all inbound visitor spend is accounted for by London. The rest of England accounts for 33%, Scotland 10% and Wales 2%.

Repeat holidaymakers stay longer on their visits than first-time visitors. They also spend more on average per night.

Inbound tourism statistics show 2017 was a record-breaking year, there was a 9% increase in spend and a 4% increase in visits from the previous year. A whopping 39.2 million people visited the UK in 2017, this is almost 66% of the UK population. The increase in tourism in 2017 drove sales for luxury British brands, boosting Bond Street into the top three of the world’s most expensive store locations.


Tourism statistics prove that this industry is one of the UK’s most valuable sectors with 37.9 million people visiting in 2018. Over half of the visitor spend is spent within London which is not surprising as London is the third most visited city in the world after Bangkok and Paris. London will always be one of the most popular cities in the world because it has something for everyone when they go on holiday, whether it is the vibrant culture, the west end theatre or classic British food.


Sources: TheGuardian, UKInbound, VisitBritain, VisitBritain, Finder, ONS, Forbes


How many tourists visit London each year?

London attracts around 30 million visitors from around the world every year. The number of tourists visiting London has increased from 11 million in 2002 to more than 19 million in 2016.


According to the National Office for Statistics tourists spent more than 111 million nights and close to £11.9 billion. See the chart below to see who’s visiting London (Source: Statista).

London Tourism Statistics


How does tourism contribute to the UK economy?

£2.9 billion was spent on visits by overseas residents in July 2019.

In 2018, £7.3 billion was spent by overseas residents. This has decreased by 3% from the previous year.

For every £1000 generated by direct tourism, a further £1800 is supported elsewhere in the economy.

Inbound visitors will continue to be the fastest-growing tourism sector with spend by international travellers forecast to grow by over 6% a year in comparison with domestic spending at just over 3%.

37.9 million people visited from overseas in 2018 and spent £22.9 billion.

The UK accounted for 3.7% of international tourism receipts in 2017.

£604 is the average spend per visit in 2018.

There was a growth in spending across Wales (2%), North East (5%), Yorkshire (2%) and East Midlands (22%).

$31.93 billion was spent by tourists in 2017.

Domestic tourism in the UK remains the biggest component of tourist spending, with 2008 expenditures totaling £21.9 billion, according to VisitBritain.

3.8% of global tourism receipts are accounted for by the UK.

Tourism in the UK contributes immensely to the economy, there was a total expenditure of £22.9 billion in 2018 and had 37.9 million tourists. The average spend per visit is £604 with an average length stay of 7 nights. Although the UK is a small country, it still accounts for 3.8% of global tourism receipts and is the fifth top tourism earner in 2018. 


How much does tourism contribute to the UK GDP? Tourism contributes £145.9bn (7.2%) of the GDP, England’s tourism sector is vibrant and vital.


Students also help contribute large amounts to the economy, 500,000 students visit to learn English each year. These English foreign language students also spend £2399 per visit, this is four times more than the average spend. 88% of these students intend to come back to the UK for another holiday. Students generate £1.2 billion in export earnings for the United Kingdom every year.


Sources: ONS, VisitBritain, VisitBritain, Wikipedia, UKinbound


How many tourists visit the UK each year?

6.9 million European residents visited in 2018, this has decreased by 3% from the previous year.

Between April and June 2019 there was an 18% (1.6 million visits) increase from the previous year in visits from North American residents.

Visits by European residents decreased by 5% (6.8 million visits) and visits from other countries decreased by 5%.

Certain markets are more likely to make repeat visits to the UK: 92% of holiday visits from the Irish Republic, 92% from Norway, 83% from Iceland and 80% from Belgium were repeat visits in 2015. Repeat visits are most likely taken by those who have been on holiday here before, as 50% of repeat visits are for holidays. This is followed by 21% who are visiting friends and relatives, 20% business trips, 8% study and 1% other.


Out of the top 10 visiting countries whose residents visited the most frequently in 2018, eight of these countries were EU countries (France, Germany, Irish Republic, Spain, Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Belgium). The only other non-EU countries in the top ten were Australia and the USA. This list has remained almost the same over recent years.


Sources: ONS, VisitBritain



Why do tourists visit the UK?

In 2018 tourists visited the UK for the following reasons:


37.9 million tourists visited the UK in 2018.

15.1 million of those visited for a holiday.

11.8 million or 31.4% visited the UK to see friends or relatives.

8.4 million visited for business trips.

2.6 million trips were for other reasons.

During April-June 2019, 4.3 million visited for a holiday,

2.1 million for business and 2.8 million came to visit family and friends. This is just under 10% of UK GDP.

77% of inbound visits were repeat visits.

92% of business visits were repeat visits in 2015, 85% was to visit family and friends and 63% were holiday visits.

Those visiting for holidays reached a new record in June 2019 with 1.6 million inbound holiday visits (up 18%).

Business visits increased to 24% in June 2019 (800,000).

Why do people visit the UK? Business visits accounted for 22% of all visits in 2018 and contributed to a spend of around £4.5 billion. According to Visit Britain, 3.3 million business visits were made to attend small/ medium-sized meetings whist 1.5 million visits were made to attend larger meetings such as conferences, conventions and trade shows. 

Visits by overseas residents decreased in 2018 in comparison to 2017. However, holidays are still the most common reason why people visit the UK. There were 15.1 billion holidays to the United Kingdom in 2018 accounting for 40% of the total. The USA is the top visiting country followed by France, Germany, the Irish Republic and Spain. 


Sources: ONS, VisitBritain, UKInbound


What are the most popular tourist destinations in the UK?

Top Towns and Cities


Visits (000s)


The most popular tourist destination in the UK is unsurprisingly London as it is the capital. The capital attracts 8 times more travelers than the second most visited city in the UK. People love visiting this city because it is full of culture. The best museums and galleries in the world are located there, most of which are free. It also provides many options to see the most beautiful panoramic views such as the London Eye and a variety of rooftop bars.

Edinburgh is the second most visited city, known for its low crime rate and rich heritage it is understandable that Edinburgh is so popular. In England, Manchester is the second top city after London. Manchester has amazing cuisine; an assortment of museums and incredible nightlife and its number of overseas tourists is rising by 10% a year.


Sources: VisitBritain, Finder, UKinbound


What are the most popular tourist attractions in the UK?

The top three activities in which international tourists participated in during their visit included dining in restaurants, shopping and going to the pub.

10% of all visits included a visit to the beach. This rises to 33% for those visiting Wales.

Walking in the countryside was the most popular outdoor leisure pursuit. This was particularly high in the South West and Scotland (41%).

9% of visits include a trip to the theatre, this rises to 15% in London.

Sightseeing is the most common activity, with 16% of those only in the UK for a day doing some form of sightseeing.

International travellers described a possible trip to the UK as education over anything else.

The Tate Modern is the most popular attraction in the capital, with 5.9 million visitors in 2018. This is followed by the British Museum (5.8 million) and the National Gallery (5.7 million).

47% of people stated that they associate the United Kingdom with Museums, it is also the most popular attraction in London.

Wildlife attractions had a 4% participation rate, increasing to 6% amongst those visiting the South West, London and Scotland.

The South West literary offer was the second highest after London, with 6% including a literary/music/TV or film location visit during their stay.


The most popular tourist activity and attraction is sightseeing. Even if tourists are only visiting for one day, 16% of people manage to do some form of sightseeing. Walking is also another extremely popular tourist activity. London tourism statistics show The Tate Modern is the number one tourist attraction in the city, with 5.9 million visitors in 2018.


Activities specifically focused around ‘city life’ such as dining, socializing and shopping are the most popular things to do for overseas visitors. History and heritage also draw in a lot of tourists, alongside ‘Britain only’ activities such as iconic landmarks and famous attractions. Whereas, in the more rural parts of the UK, visiting the countryside, beaches, as well as national parks, are very popular amongst tourists. Tourists over the age of 65 are more likely to do unusual activities such as playing golf or researching ancestry.


Sources: VisitBritain, Finder


How many jobs does tourism create in the UK?

Since 2010, tourism has been the fastest-growing sector for UK employment. By 2025, the tourism industry UK is set to be worth over £257 billion.

The tourism sector is set to grow at an annual rate of 3.8% through to 2025. This is significantly faster than the overall economy. It is also supporting 3.8 million jobs.

English foreign language students generate £1.2 billion in export earnings each year. This creates 20,000 jobs.

3.3 million people work in tourism-related businesses, 1.5 million are employed as a redirected result of expenditure.

There are 241,000 businesses in the UK travel industry.

The United Kingdom is the world’s 7th most popular tourist destination, therefore it is not surprising that this sector creates a lot of job opportunities. These UK tourism employment statistics demonstrate the importance of tourism for employment. Since 2010, tourism has been the fastest-growing sector for UK employment, accounting for 11.9% of all jobs and it is thought that by 2025, the industry is set to be worth over £257 billion. Travel and tourism overtook financial services (8.9%) and banking (3.4%) as the fastest growing sector in the UK.


Sources: VisitBritain, Finder, WTTC