Tourists visiting UK in record numbers

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People crossing a London street with flags

The first half of 2014 was the most popular period ever for tourism into the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found.

Tourists made 16.41 million trips to the UK between January and June, an 8% rise on the same period in 2013.

Spending by foreign residents in the UK has reached £8.92bn so far this year.

But Britons going abroad cut their spending by 16% in the first six months of 2014, to £12.83bn, compared with the same period last year.

June saw a record number of visits from overseas - 3.18 million - a 10% increase on June 2013.

Spending by visitors to Britain in June 2014 also increased by 4% in nominal terms, setting a new June record of £1.97bn.

Their expenditure in the first six months of this year is comparable with the same period last year, which led to the 2013 year-end total exceeding £20bn for the first time.

Those visiting the country so far this year included 11.38 million from EU countries, 1.1 million from the rest of Europe, 1.57 million from North America and 2.28 million from the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, the number of visits abroad taken by UK residents rose 4% to 27.14 million in the first half of this year.

'Hugely positive'

The ONS also said UK residents made 5% more visits abroad over the last twelve months but their expenditure decreased 3% in the same period.

David Edwards, head of research and forecasting at the UK's tourist agency VisitBritain, said: "Tourism is an essential part of the wider success of our economy and these first six months have set us up for what could be another record year for inbound tourism.

"It's also hugely positive to see growth both from our high volume European markets and also emerging markets across Asia and Latin America."

Minister for Tourism Helen Grant said the figures were "fantastic".

"It shows the government's tourism strategy is working - creating more jobs, encouraging greater spend and growing the economy," she added.

A spokeswoman for travel association Abta said the statistics on Britons travelling abroad were encouraging for the travel industry and reflected its own research which indicated how people prioritise a holiday above other "discretionary spending".

But she added that a drop in spending by British tourists abroad was "likely to be due to the continued squeeze on family finances, as well as the holiday budget going further abroad thanks to a strong pound".

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