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British tourism: after Brexit, a record summer season

The UK has recorded its biggest-ever month for tourist visits, with 3.8 million international visitors in July. This dynamic is expected to continue in the upcoming months, especially due to the consequences of the Brexit on the purchasing power of foreign tourists.

Perhaps even more remarkable is that this performance follows the record of 2015, when the United Kingdom welcomed more than 35.8 million inbound visitors. July 2016 now represents the biggest-ever month for tourist visits, with a +2% increase from July 2015 in terms of arrivals and a +4% growth for tourist spendings to reach £2.5bn.

The currency depreciation resulting from the June referendum vote proved decisive in boosting international arrivals. The pound sterling has reached its lowest level against the dollar for more than 30 years. Source markets in the Eurozone are also affected, with inbound visits from EU countries up +3% from July 2015. Similarly, the British pound is trading at its lowest against the single currency for seven years.

Long-haul source markets should also benefit from this favorable context: bookings from China are up by nearly a quarter for the last quarter of 2016. Visitors from China increased very distinctly last year, and the country now ranks among the UK's top 10 source markets. Arrivals surged by +46% from 2014, with tourist spendings up +18%.

In the medium term, British tourism does not appear to have suffered too harshly following the Brexit vote. However, assessing its lasting consequences might be complex, as the decision of British voters will not be fully implemented until 2019 and the United Kingdom's effective withdrawal from the European Union. Heralding the difficult decisions yet to come, Prime Minister Theresa May launched a Tourism Action Plan in August, including a new £40m Discover England fund to support tourism organizations and businesses. In the meantime, VisitBritain is strengthening its marketing efforts in the country's three largest source markets: France, Germany and the United States.

Also read:

  • The United Kingdom remains among Europe's tourism leaders in 2015
  • Brexit: What impact on European tourism if British demand falters?
  • Brexit: What would it mean for the British and European hotel industry?

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