A new report by tourist agency VisitBritain suggests the UK economy is suffering as foreign visitors stay with friends and family rather than in hotels. And in addition the amount spent by visitors on holiday in Britain has hardly risen in real terms since 1979.
Although the number of tourists visiting Britain has increased by 120% since 1979, their spending has not kept pace causing a £17bn deficit in UK tourism revenues. Average expenditure per visit has actually fallen in real terms from £740 to £470 per person. Visitors are staying for a shorter length of time, while people are increasingly coming to stay with friends and relatives.
The average stay has fallen from 12 to eight nights while the proportion of total visitors coming for a holiday has fallen from 45% to 34%.
Eight million people a year now visit Britain primarily to see family or friends, up 250% on the late 1970s.
VisitBritain said that despite a strong rise in visitor numbers, the spending figures made for "sobering" reading and better hospitality and more top notch visitor attractions were needed to reverse the trend.
Adam Bates - Head of Tourism in Brighton & Hove - said: - "A UK tourism deficit is an inevitable consequence in a developed country and we share this fact with most of our european neighbours. The figures from Visitbritain make light of the relative growth in business tourism over the similar period which has grown by 212%. Conferences and meetings have been one of the ways in which Brighton and Hove has proved more resilient as a destination. This reinforces the reasons why the Brighton Centre re-development remains the number one priority for the future of the City's economy".
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