Inbound passengers in June returned to growth, increasing 7.4% year-on-year, a significant improvement on the 2% decrease year-on-year for May.
However, this growth is still below the 13% growth seen in the first four months of 2017, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA).
The BHA’s Travel Monitor, based on data from the Office of National Statistics, showed continued growth from North America with visitor numbers up 34%, while short-haul travel growth remained subdued with traveller numbers from Europe up only 2%.
The differentiation in inbound tourism growth from the two continents could show long-haul travel holding up better in the wake of terrorist incidents due to the longer booking period to travel.
The number of UK residents travelling abroad for their holidays increased 7%, rebounding from the 5% decline in May, indicating a potentially weaker domestic staycation market in the UK.
Holiday visitors to the UK increased 21%, but business travellers continued to decline, down 7% year-on-year for June. Overall UK spend by overseas visitors was up 2% to £2.2b, which said the BHA is surprisingly low given the large increase in visitors from high-spending North America and the weak pound.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “It’s positive to see visitors returning to the UK after a difficult May. The latest BHA travel monitor shows that inbound travel from Europe in June was only up 2% in spite of the weak pound, showing that the UK cannot build its tourism strategy on currency fluctuations. With business travel down 7% the government must ensure that the UK remains open for business by immediately reducing the rate of tourism VAT, which is double that of our European competitors.
“We welcome the suggestion that the government has taken on board BHA policy and aim to retain visa-free access for EU visitors, who make up two thirds of all visitors to Britain, after Brexit. The UK must also take advantage of growing global tourism and further tap into new markets, reforming non-EU tourist visa systems too.”
The June figures brings the overall number of visitors for the first six months of the year to a record-breaking 19.1 million travellers into the UK, up 9% year-on-year. Overseas travellers spent £10.6b during the first half of the year, up 11%.