UK visitor numbers fall but spend increases

Newly released figures for April this year has shown that spending by visitors to the UK increased by 13 percent for the month, despite an actual fall in visitor numbers.

The 2.88 million foreign visitors that arrived during the month of April was 1 percent down on the same period last year, but arrivals from developing markets including Brazil and China were at record levels.

With the final month’s figures in place it can be revealed that visitors to Britain spent GBP19.19 billion during the year to April, which was a record.

For the first four months of 2013, visitors from the 15 major European countries have registered a 1 percent increase in numbers. However, visitors from North America registered a 7 percent drop for April, and a drop of 4 percent for the first months of 2013.

Sandie Dawe, the chief executive of VisitBritain, the body responsible for generating tourism to the UK, commented, ‘While these latest figures indicate that we’re on track with our 2013 forecast, it’s clear that we’re fighting hard to increase visitor numbers against better resourced competition who recognise that inbound tourism can deliver economic growth and jobs in a tough climate. The USA, still Britain’s most valuable source of overseas visitors, continues to struggle. We simply haven’t got the resources currently to arrest that.

‘Like others in the public sector, we’re making a strong case for additional funding through the Spending Review.

‘Our GREAT campaign is having a positive impact, but we must not be complacent.

‘We must continue to make further inroads in key inbound markets if we are to increase visitor numbers to 40 million a year by 2020.

‘The world travel picture remains highly competitive and our GREAT activity is building good momentum on what it is that makes Britain such a wonderful destination, especially at a time when other countries are dramatically raising their game and their funding.’

Britain a must for international shoppers

Serious shoppers from all over the world see the UK as a purveying paradise according to the results of a recent survey.

The study carried out by VisitBritain, the UK’s tourism authority, has produced figures that prove just how important foreign shoppers are to the nation’s economy. The tourism agency reported that around 18 million foreign visitors spent GBP4.5 billion in the UK’s retail outlets last year. That equates to around a quarter of foreign tourists total spend in the UK finding its way into High Street tills.

The analysis of what the money was spent on was perhaps predictable; with more than half of the total spend, GBP2.3 billion, lavished on clothes. Gifts, souvenirs and household goods also featured heavily on buying lists, and accounted for GBP1.6 billion of the spend. However, shopping-oriented tourists only spend around GBP100 more per visit to the UK on average, than their ‘standard tourist’ counterpart, GBP680 compared to GBP580.

Although London benefits massively from tourist shopping, with 81 percent of visitors to the capital choosing to shop, nearly 75 percent of holiday visitors also shopped at other destinations across the UK.

The 18 million shopping tourists were comprised predominantly of 2 million from France, 1.63 million Germans, 1.63 million Americans, 1.3 million Irish and 1.1 million Spanish. However, the number of shoppers arriving from developing countries is also on the increase, especially from Brazil, Russia, and China.

The chief executive at VisitBritain, Sandie Dawe, commented, ‘Shopping in Britain is seen around the world as a positive and welcoming experience, and one of the things VisitBritain promotes to encourage visitors. Our shopping experience is world class, with high quality, desirable British brands enticing international visitors at all times of the year and providing real value for money against our competitors.’


Post Olympics Air Bookings Fall in UK

Post 2012 Olympic Games, air bookings in UK fell during August 2012 from 2011 levels.

Guild of Travel Management Companies, a UK-based professional association of travel companies, reported a 4.7% fall in overall air bookings in August 2012, through its BSP system of selling airfares, compared to the levels in August 2011. Bookings in August 2012 generated around GBP227 million.

Calling the fall in airline bookings the ‘Olympic Effect’, the association has recorded a decrease in the total number of transactions by 2.4% to 499,600 in August 2012, with average transaction value down by 2.4% to GBP455.06, compared to the same month of the preceding year.

GTMC chairman, Ajaya Sodha, said, ‘The drop in air sales by GTMC members was probably due to the Olympics’ effect combined with the traditional holiday season.

August is always traditionally slow and now UK PLC is back at work full on we await the September figures to get a truer picture.’

Earlier, for the second quarter of 2012, the association reported that air, rail, car hire and ancillary services registered a growth, on comparison with the same quarter last year; while hotels have only registered a stationary level from that in the same period last year.

Air travel is up by 2% in the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same quarter of 2011.

John Williams, the general manager at GTMC, commented on the 2012 second quarter results, ‘The static figure for hotel transactions may reflect anomalies due to the Olympics. It will be interesting to see what happens in the third quarter.’