After several disastrous years British tourism is rising from the ashes. According to new statistics spending by tourists visiting the UK leapt 9% in the first 11 months of 2004 compared with the same period the year before.
It is frustrating to note that in Brighton many businesses in retail - one of the key tourism sectors - have reported a drop in income this year. Does this mean that people are coming but not shopping? Are they spending their extra cash on eating, drinking and culture perhaps? Or are they simply not coming to Brighton?
The amount spent is approaching that of the year 2000. This is widely regarded as the last year of normal tourism. It preceded the series of disasters that included events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the subsequent war in Iraq and Foot & Mouth disease. All have had a marked negative impact on the travel industry.
World tourism is still recovering from these events, but last year saw a dramatic increase in the number of people arriving in the UK for holidays.
However, these were mainly Europeans who statistically do not stay as long nor spend as much as people from the US or Japan.
The latest figures show that 6.7 million people visited UK tourism hotspots between September and November, a 5% increase on the same period in 2003.
Welcoming the figures, Tom Wright, chief executive of VisitBritain, said, "2004 has been a remarkably strong year for Britain's revitalised tourism industry.
"Despite the challenging economic climate in the US, visits from this region are up 10% on 2003 and, with increasing numbers of arrivals from Asia and new and emerging markets, the signs are encouraging that international visitor spending will soon exceed previous records. "We anticipate that, by the end of 2005, international visitors in Britain will have contributed £12.7 billion to the tourism economy, challenging the previous record set in 2000."
However important to point out that this relates only to overseas visitors which account for 6% of total spend. So a 9% increase is only actually a 0.5% increase in total tourism spending. And of course there are no national statistics to indicate the value of domestic tourism (which makes up the rest) but they are very likely to show a flat or declining value for 2004.
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