UK tourism receipts falling as visitors drop off

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Over the past 10 years, tourism receipts have fallen by 11%

The UK has become Europe’s sick man as a destination for tourism.

Earlier this year, the British Museum said the country’s declining popularity as a tourist destination was a “concern”.

Now, researchers at University College London have found that tourism receipts have fallen by almost a quarter in the UK over the past decade.

Over the same period, the number of visitors to the UK has fallen by just over 4%.

Europe was the top source of tourists for every country in Europe until 2010, according to global research company Euromonitor.

Great Britain had been at the top of the league table for many years.

But from 2010 onwards, the UK slipped down the rankings and now ranks 12th in the amount spent per visitor, behind Cyprus, Malta, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands.

But crucially, since 2009, Britain has failed to consistently rank among the top 10 nations, despite having the highest per capita GDP in Europe.

As a result, the UK’s market share of the European market has slipped by roughly a quarter, according to researchers from the university’s school of international studies.

Professor Chris Thornton, who lead the study, said that a combination of factors had led to the UK’s decline in recent years, ranging from the 2012 London Olympics not being as popular as hoped, to the 2016 Brexit vote.

“According to our data, Britain has always enjoyed a strong regional bias in terms of visitors, as English is a leading language,” he said.

But “London has now lost its attraction as a tourist hub in particular because of Brexit.

“However, the five biggest attractions in the UK – which include London Eye, Tower of London, National Mallard and London Aquarium – accounted for only 12% of receipts – a proportion not too far above the EU average.”

Describing the UK as an “insecure tourism economy”, he added: “Investment in destinations other than the UK is necessary in order to manage the risk of competitiveness loss.”

A spokesman for the UK tourism industry’s trade body, The British Travel Association, said that every pound was important but that the EU approach to the production and distribution of foreign travel advice, for example, could see more families staying closer to home.

He said travel advice was given to improve travel safety and would not target destinations based on nationality or Brexit.

“A ‘soft landing’ for the UK economy would mean that a period of poor economic performance in the UK would be offset by a stronger performance elsewhere in the EU economy,” the spokesman said.

Follow this reporter on Twitter @MarkCadie

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