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Britain welcomed more than one visitor every single second in June, as the reputation built up during last year’s Olympics games helped to attract record numbers of tourists, official figures show.
Nearly 2.9m visitors came to Britain in June, a 12pc increase on the previous year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The June boost pushed the number of overseas visitors in the first six months of this year to 15.2m, the strongest figure since before the global financial crisis in 2008 and a 4pc increase on the same period in 2012.
Visitors to Britain are also spending more than before during their stay. In June, overseas visitors parted with £1.84 billion, up 13pc, taking the total spend for the first half of the year to a record £8.7bn.
Although the visitor numbers for June were flattered by poor figures during the same month last year – when there was a dip prior to the Olympics – tourism body VisitBritain said it marked the second consecutive month of record visits and spend.
“If this trend continues it would see us welcome one overseas visitor every second of every day of every week of every month of the year,” said Keith Beecham, overseas director at VistiBritain.
“This is great news for the economy and a further sign that tourism is delivering growth across the economy.”
There was particularly strong growth in the number of visitors from emerging market economies in Asia and Central and Latin America during the first half of the year.
Although business organisations warn the UK attracts fewer Chinese tourists than rival economies in Europe due to our visa system, visitor numbers from the Dragon economy grew 24pc between January and June. Mexico and Argentina were also among the best-performing markets, as well as France, Germany and the Netherlands.
“A weak sterling is making the UK increasingly appealing to foreign visitors who can make their money go that much further. We are likely to see this summer’s figures further boosted on the back of great weather,” said Chris Lee, head of travel at Barclays.
However, the ONS said visits to the UK from North America continued to decline over the period.
Figures for June also show more Britons stayed at home compared to the same month in 2012, with just 5.9m travelling abroad, a 2pc decrease.
Nevertheless, Britain still has a gaping tourism deficit, as almost 26m Britons travelled abroad between January and June, compared to the 15.2m overseas visitors who came here.
In the year to date UK residents have spent an estimated £15.2bn while travelling abroad compared to £8.7bn of earnings generated from visitors to Britain.