Britain’s economic recovery could put the brakes on the tourist boom that has provided a boost to thousands of hotels, stately homes and attractions across the country, Visit Britain warned last night.
The tourist organisation admitted the prospect of a stronger Pound fueled by the improving economy was a “risk” as they unveiled forecasts showing the number of overseas visitors should rise by 600,000 in 2014.
Visit Britain claimed overall visitors, including holiday makers, businessmen on trips or people visiting friends and family, was likely hit 32.6 million next year, up 2 per cent and the highest since 2007.
David Edwards, Visit Britain’s head of research and forecasting, said the low Pound had transformed Britain into a “value for money” destination for many Europeans since the 2009 recession.
But he told the Telegraph: “The economy is one of the risks we have identified for 2014. A lot of people come to Britain with a set amount of money and the stronger Pound will affect their spending power.
“However, we would like to think it’s more attractive to travel to a destination that has a vibrant economy than one that doesn’t.”
Mr Edwards added that the burgeoning Middle Class across the Far East and Asia was also likely to swell tourist numbers in 2014 as well as the number of new plane routes to the UK from cities such as Manila in the Philippines and Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Chinese spent £400 million in Britain in the past year – double the level of the previous 12 months. Visit Britain also expects a jump in numbers from Malaysia and South Korea.
Sterling rose against the US Dollar yesterday as the strong unemployment numbers triggered fresh speculation about a possible interest rate rise. Yet experts believe a rate hike may still be at least one year away.
The Government ear-marked another £90 million for the ‘Great ‘ campaign, designed to showcase Britain around the world, in the Autumn Statement.
Visit Britain has spent much of the past year trying to encourage tourists to go beyond London, insisting that Lincoln and Winchester are as much of a romantic getaway as more traditional destinations such as Florence in Italy.
Tourist numbers are expected to hit 12.8 million this year and should top 13 million in 2014. Business visitors could hit 7.8 million in 2013, up from the low of 6.8 million in 2010 but still some way below the 8.8 million before the global financial crisis.
Visit Britain said that since 2007, trips to see friends and relatives in the UK had fallen by almost 800,000 while ‘study’ visits were down by more than 140,000.
Sandie Dawe, Visit Britain chief executive, said:”Government investment in the milions will bring tourism returns in the billions. It just goes to show what can be achieved with a clear strategy and cooperation across all the major Government agencies promoting Britain overseas.”
Helen Grant, tourism minister., added: “Millions of people flock to British shores every year and our tourist attractions are world class. Tourism is a key plank to the economy, helping to drive growth and promoting Britain on the world stage.”