Updated on January 30, 2024 by Axel Hernborg

Axel Hernborg

The United Kingdom, with its rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture, consistently ranks among the world’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s a dynamic sector, attracting both international and domestic visitors, and showcasing robust growth over the past decades.

This article delves into the heart of UK tourism, providing a comprehensive overview through key statistics and trends. We’ll shed light on the spending patterns of overseas visitors, explore domestic travel trends, and delve into the popularity of specific attractions.

This information, compiled from reliable sources, aims to equip you with a thorough understanding of the UK tourism landscape.

Why People Travel To The UK

Before we jump into some of the harder facts and figures surrounding tourism statistics in the UK. First, let’s take a closer look at why people travel within and to the UK. What are some of the driving forces behind tourism in this country?

Statistics show that the top three activities for tourism in the United Kingdom were shopping, dining, and visiting the pub. These were things that international visitors were most likely to take part in when they arrived.

Another statistic shows that one of the main activities that people took part in when they visited the country was to go to the beach. At least 10% of visitors made a trip to the beach when they touched down in the UK. This figure triples when it comes to visits to Wales, which accounts for approximately 30% of the activities tourists participate in.

In terms of sightseeing activities, this will account for approximately 16 per cent of people’s trips. The reason why tourists claim they participate in so many sightseeing activities is because they want to educate themselves.

The most popular tourist attraction in the UK is the Tate Modern, which in 2018, received approximately 5.9 million visitors.

In 2022, Windsor Great Park emerged as another highly sought-after tourist destination in the UK, drawing approximately 5.6 million visitors.

Edinburgh’s Royal Yacht Britannia offered a glimpse into maritime majesty, while London’s National Gallery unveiled artistic treasures, and the Tower of London whispered tales of its captivating history

Tourism Highlights

UK Tourism Statistics AndTrends

One of the most significant facts about tourism in the UK is that in 2019, the UK received 40.9 million international visitors. The overseas visits to the UK for 2023 were near 37.5 million, indicating a rise of approximately 6.5 million compared to 2022.

This clearly shows that the UK is one of the most popular, and sought-after tourist destinations in the entire world. It continues to grow as an industry and gives us a great insight into its popularity.

In 2023, tourism contributed approximately 237.1 billion British pounds to the UK economy, showing a slight uptick from 2019 but remaining below pre-pandemic levels. September 2023 witnessed tourism revenue reaching 3 billion USD, a decline from the peak of 4.7 billion USD in August 2017.

Another significant fact that we’ve gathered is that in 2018, international expenditure reached a total of 24.8 billion. In 2022, the estimated international expenditure in the UK was £28.4 billion, reflecting a decline of 56.5% from the 2019 figure of £65.4 billion.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) projections, international expenditure in the UK is anticipated to rise to £42.7 billion in 2023 and further to £54.6 billion in 2024. However, these figures are expected to remain below the pre-pandemic level recorded in 2019.

This shows just how successful tourism is as an industry, bringing in a lot of money for the country.

It also shows how valued the country is by tourists, as they’re willing to spend a lot of money during their visits here. This is incredibly positive for the UK’s economy and also shows how popular the country is on an international level.

Domestic Tourism

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the most important facts regarding tourism in the UK, as well as some of the key reasons for people’s visits, we can move on to discuss domestic tourism within the country.

Domestic tourism pertains to members of the country, travelling to different areas within the same country.

Perhaps the biggest impetus behind travel and tourism in the UK was the pandemic which hit in 2020. The average number of domestic trips in the country dropped by nearly a quarter (22%) compared to 2019, with an average of 739 trips in 2020. This marked the lowest figure since records began in 1972 to 1973.

This happened in the face of the many restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrates that even in the most difficult situations, people are still motivated to plan trips.

Another statistic that may surprise you is the amount of money that tourism generated in 2019. In 2019, domestic tourism alone generated a whopping 91.6 billion. Domestic tourism in the UK generated approximately £51.4 billion in 2023, marking a 10% rise from 2019 but remaining below pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, domestic tourism constituted 21.7% of the overall tourism spending in the UK.

This shows us the economic impact that tourism has within the country. It also bodes well for growth within the sector in future years.

Those in charge should also be taking note of these statistics, and start investing more money in the tourism sector, as it’s our main form of revenue.

In 2019, members of the UK public took approximately 125.7 million overnight trips to other areas within the UK. In the second quarter of 2023, the count of domestic overnight trips in Great Britain reached 29.3 million, reflecting a 6% growth compared to the same period in 2022. This statistic shows us how valuable travel and tourism are for members of the British public, and that it’s just as important for them as international tourists.

The Future Of Travel And Tourism In The UK

UK Tourism Statistics AndTrends

Now that we’ve taken a closer look at domestic tourism statistics within the UK, we can move on to take a closer look at some predictions for the future of travel and tourism in the UK.

Statistics show that travel and tourism provide a significant contribution to our economy, and benefited the domestic budget by 248.5 billion pounds before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

There was, of course, a drop in 2020, but that began to rise again in 2021, as restrictions began to lift, and things returned to their normal state.

According to the National Tourism Agency, the sector has been forecasted to reach 257.2 billion pounds by 2025, which demonstrates the vast effect tourism is expected to have on UK businesses.

The National Tourism Agency has also predicted that by 2023, UK travel statistics will reach approximately 600 million pounds in revenue. The travel and tourism sector made a total contribution of 237.1 billion British pounds to the UK’s GDP in 2022.

It shows that the industries that will benefit the most from this are hotels.

Therefore, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and self-catering accommodations will have the opportunity for growth and development.

In this respect, package holidays are the most lucrative and attractive for potential customers, so hotels and accommodations may benefit from utilizing this marketing technique.

In terms of international travel, most of the tourists who visit the country from different places are those residing in the US.

They continue to be the primary target market for tourism in the UK. They bring in the largest inbound influx based on spending in the country during their stay. As well as this, the majority of visitors also come from France and Spain. We also used to receive a lot of visits from Germany, but this has dropped following on from 2020.

Who Is Visiting The UK?

UK Tourism StatisticsAndTrends

The predominant age groups visiting the UK typically fall within the range of 25 to 74 years old, constituting approximately 54-55% of those who visited a museum or gallery in the year 2019/20.

These are the people who are most likely to spend money on tours in the UK. It is also noteworthy that gender appears to play a role, and the majority of people planning trips to the UK are male.

In terms of how people from this age group book their trips, statistics show that they find online booking to be the most comfortable and convenient method.

Those surpassing this age group, falling into the category of 54 to 66 prefer to book their holiday directly from airline companies.

In terms of how long people from this age group stay in the UK once they’ve booked their trip, statistics show that they plan to stay for 6.7 nights in total.

This shows that there’s plenty to see and do in the UK to keep international visitors interested and that it’s providing an enjoyable experience for visitors too.

The majority of people visiting the UK do so for leisure purposes, and statistics show that 39% of visits to the UK in the year 2022 were made for holidays. This helps to show us people’s motivations for visiting the country.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, the UK continues to be an incredibly popular tourist destination. Despite a drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, the tourism industry in the UK now continues to flourish.

It is expected to rise exponentially in the coming years, and by 2025, it’s predicted that it will bring in 257.2 billion in terms of revenue.

One of the industries that will benefit the most from this exponential growth is the hotel industry, which will have the opportunity to develop from the country’s popularity.

In the year 2023, the United States secured its position at the forefront of the UK’s inbound travel market, leading with a substantial number of visits—approximately 4.6 million trips by American travellers. Following closely in the rankings were tourist arrivals originating from France, the Republic of Ireland, and Germany, contributing to the diverse spectrum of international visitors to the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom (UK) Top 12 Tourist Attractions