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UK TOURISM Statistics 2019


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


UK tourism is a booming and a vital sector for both employment and GDP. By 2025, the tourism industry in the UK is set to be worth over £257 billion. The statistics in this article demonstrate the importance of tourists visiting the UK, as well as what makes the UK a popular place to visit.


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 in the UK by overseas residents, demonstrating how substantial tourism is to the economy. USA residents visit the UK the most as 3,877,000 people visited the UK in 2018, closely followed by France. The statistics demonstrate the popularity of London in comparison to other locations in the UK as London 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 statistics on UK tourism.



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 visitors in the UK in 2016.

Two million jobs are created by the UK tourism industry.

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

Inbound tourism has been recorded at £50 billion.

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

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

53% of the inbound visitor spend is accounted for by 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 visits 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 UK ranked seventh in the UNWTO international tourist 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 UK ranked fifth place in the UNWTO international tourism earnings league in 2017.

There were 37.9 million visits to the UK in 2018.

Visitors from the US contribute most to the UK’s travel market. 3.9 million American tourists visited the UK 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 holiday visitors stay longer on their visits than first-time visitors. They also spend more on average per night.

2017 was a record-breaker for inbound tourism, 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.


UK tourist statistics prove that tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable industries with 37.9 million people visiting the UK 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 does tourism contribute to the UK economy?

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

In 2018, £7.3 billion was spent in the UK 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 tourism will continue to be the fastest-growing tourism sector with spend by international visitors forecast to grow by over 6% a year in comparison with domestic spending by UK residents 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 in the UK by tourists in 2017.

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

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

Tourism contributes immensely to the UK economy, there was a total expenditure of £22.9 billion in 2018 and had 37.9 million visitors. 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 UK GDP, England’s tourism sector is vibrant and vital.


Students also help contribute large amounts to the UK economy, 500,000 students come to the UK 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 UK every year.


Sources: ONS, VisitBritain, VisitBritain, Wikipedia, UKinbound


How many tourists visit the UK each year?

6.9 million European residents visited the UK 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 to the UK 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 to the UK 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 UK 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



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. London has 8 times more visitors than the second most visited city in the UK. People love visiting London because it is full of culture. The best museums and galleries in the world are in London, most of which are free. London 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 in the UK, 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 visitors 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 visitors participated in during their visit to the UK included dining in restaurants, shopping and going to the pub.

10% of all visits to the UK 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 to the UK 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 visitors described a possible trip to the UK as education over anything else.

The Tate Modern is the most popular attraction in London, 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 UK 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 in the UK. The Tate Modern is the number one tourist attraction in London, 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 coming into the UK. 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 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 UK economy. It is also supporting 3.8 million jobs.

English foreign language students generate £1.2 billion in export earnings for the UK 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 tourism 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


Why do tourists visit the UK?

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

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

77% of inbound visits to the UK were repeat visits.

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

Visits to the UK 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 to the UK 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 to the UK by overseas residents decreased in 2018 in comparison to 2017. However, holidays are still the most common reason as to why people visit the UK. There were 15.1 billion holiday visits to the UK 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