Weak pound boosting UK tourism industry

Tourists in LondonImage copyright Getty Images

The number of tourists visiting the UK from China has risen by almost a fifth this summer, the latest figures show.

Travel data firm ForwardKeys said that summer flight bookings from long-haul markets were also 6% higher than in the same period last year.

It credited the weakness of the pound for boosting tourists’ spending power.

This week sterling hit a 31-month low against the dollar amid increasing speculation the UK could leave the EU without a deal.

“This summer is likely to see the highest number of Chinese tourists to the UK ever,” said ForwardKeys spokesman David Tarsh.

He added that the number of Indian tourists was ahead by 20%, with Japan at 10% and the USA at 5%.

Sarah Hewin, chief economist for Europe and the Americas at Standard Chartered, said the low pound meant visitors would be feeling wealthier.

“The fall in the value of the pound against China’s currency [the renminbi] means that Chinese tourists coming to the UK have seen their spending power increase by around 5% in the past three months.”

This tallies with what Patricia Yates, a director at the UK’s tourism promotion agency Visit Britain, is seeing on the ground.

“The UK is offering great value for inbound visitors right now which gives us a valuable opportunity including in Europe, where we are already running a campaign to promote travel to the UK during the summer.”

Image copyright Carol Herbert Photography
Image caption Diane Howarth and her husband Andrew

Staycations are also boosting the industry.

The regional tourist office Welcome to Yorkshire finds that tourism is thriving in the area. Commercial director Peter Dodd said: “We’re hearing from lots of our accommodation members, especially cottages, lodges and other self-catering properties, that business is booming with some already fully booked until October.”

One of those is Diane Hawes who runs the holiday letting company Cottage in the Dales and is having a record year.

“We’re at 87% occupancy for the year already, which is much earlier than in previous years. Brexit uncertainty is causing people to choose holidays in Britain this year, which is good news for us.”

Falling demand in Europe?

But when it comes to European visitors, Visit Britain says there is some concern about the impact that the uncertainty of Brexit is having.

The latest ONS tourism stats showed that visits from Europe to the UK were relatively flat from January to March this year – up just 2% compared to the same period last year.

They are running a campaign in Europe to persuade people that the UK will still be a good place to visit after it leaves the European Union.

However anecdotally, some businesses like Mrs Hawes’ Cottage in the Dales are seeing seeing a rise in EU visitors.

“We’re getting repeat bookings from fans of the Tour de Yorkshire race, but also seeing new interest from people in the Netherlands and Germany for example, who are taking advantage of the weaker pound to come and visit this beautiful part of the world in person”

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