London is one of the top five most popular cities for tourism worldwide. It’s truly an icon of the United Kingdom and the country’s leading tourist destination.
Well, have you ever wondered what the most visited attractions are in the UK?
Or how much money tourism brings in to the UK’s economy?
Below, we’ve compiled data from numerous reliable sources to present some of the latest statistics about travel and tourism in the UK.
Whether you want to learn more about UK tourism or are simply preparing for your next visit, you’ve come to the right place!
Let’s get started…
Sources: You’ll find the source of each statistics directly under it, or head over to the end of the post for a full list of all articles and sources used.
How many tourists visit the UK each year?
In 2019, there were 40.86 million tourist arrivals registered in the United Kingdom.
What percentage of the UK economy is tourism?
The total contribution of travel and tourism to the UK’s GDP increased by 40% from 2020 to 2021, after plummeting dramatically from the £234.5 billion contribution in 2019.
Where does the UK rank in tourism?
With 39.4 million visitor arrivals in 2019, the UK ranks tenth in the top visited countries in the world.
How many tourists visit wales each year?
More than 1 million tourists visit Wales each year, spending a total of £3 billion annually.
UK Travel & Tourism Key Statistics
The number of international tourist arrivals in the UK fell significantly to 11.1 million in 2020, which is a 73% decrease.
Holiday is the main reason overseas tourists visited the UK, with 1.3 million visits being made for this reason, or 44% of all overseas visits.
With 4.2 million visits, Spain was the most visited country by UK residents in 2021.
In 2021, 30% of all travel and tourism spending in the UK was for business travel, while 70% was leisure spending.
London is the most popular city in the UK for international travelers, reaching the top 5 most popular cities worldwide in 2019 with 19.56 million tourists.
There were 18,530 accommodation businesses in the UK in 2020.
Hotels and similar accommodations are the most common accommodation type in the UK, with 9,837 establishments recorded in 2020.
After London, the second most visited city in Britain is Edinburgh with 2.2 million visitors in 2019.
The British Museum is the most visited tourist attractions in the United Kingdom according to 2019 figures.
UK inbound tourism statistics
How many tourists visit Britain each year?
1. There were 3 million overseas visits to the UK in June 2022, a 7% increase from the 2.8 million visits in May 2022.
2. However, this figure is still 19% lower than the pre-pandemic levels, which was 3.7 million in June 2019.
In the UK and elsewhere in the world, pre-pandemic figures in travel and tourism are still significantly better.
3. In 2019, there were 40.86 million tourist arrivals registered in the United Kingdom.
The number of tourist arrivals include anyone who spends at least one night in the UK but doesn’t reside there for more than 12 months. However, the survey excludes business and non-tourism arrivals.
4. The number of international tourist arrivals in the UK fell significantly to 11.1 million in 2020, which is a 73% decrease from 2019.
5. Holiday is the main reason overseas tourists visited the UK, with 1.3 million visits being made for this reason, or 44% of all overseas visits.
6. Another popular reason for visiting the UK from abroad was to visit friends or relatives (1 million visits or 34% of the total).
Outbound tourism in the UK
How many outbound visits are made from the UK each year?
7. In June 2022, UK residents made 7.8 million overseas visits, or 23% more, compared to May 2022.
8. Likewise, this is also still lower than the 9.1 million recorded overseas visits made by UK residents in June 2019.
9. Out of these overseas visits made by UK residents, 6.6 million or 85% were to European countries.
UK residents make up a significant portion of the international tourism in Europe.
10. With 4.2 million visits, Spain was the most visited country by UK residents in 2021.
This is still a significant decrease from the 18 million visits to Spain made by UK residents in 2019.
11. The top outbound travel destination for UK residents in 2021 was followed by France, Portugal, and Greece.
The UK is actually the top inbound travel market for France, with 13 million visits recorded in 2018.
12. Great Britain is an important market for the Republic of Ireland, making up 42% of all overseas visits to the country.
42% of all international visits to Ireland are made by residents from Great Britain.
13. 72% of those who travel abroad from the UK do so as a holiday.
14. Meanwhile, 23% of UK residents travel overseas to visit friends or family.
UK tourism spending
How big is the UK tourism industry?
15. In June 2022, overseas residents spent £2.7 billion in the UK.
16. In contrast, UK residents spent £6.2 billion while overseas the same month.
17. The total contribution of travel and tourism to the UK’s GDP increased by 40% from 2020 to 2021, after plummeting dramatically from the £234.5 billion contribution in 2019.
This shows that in 2021, travel and tourism in the UK are beginning to look up again following the various restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.
18. In 2021, 30% of all travel and tourism spending in the UK was for business travel, while 70% was leisure spending.
30% of tourism spending in the UK was for corporate travel.
19. In the United Kingdom, domestic visitors contributed 96% of total travel and tourism spending in 2021, compared to 81% in 2019.
The increasing segment of domestic tourist spending in comparison to international shows that international tourism has yet to recover in the UK.
20. Total travel and tourism revenue in the United Kingdom reached $18 billion in 2021, with the leading industry being hotels, generating $6.5 billion in 2021.
21. According to the Statista Mobility Market Outlook, revenue across all travel and tourism industries in the UK will grow and surpass pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
22. The UK travel and tourism industry generated a total of 4.11 million jobs in 2021. It has not yet reached the pre-pandemic levels of 4.28 million jobs in 2019.
Meanwhile, the number dropped slightly to 4.09 million in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its peak.
23. The median full-time salary of employees in the UK hotel industry is £20,300.
24. Meanwhile, full-time workers in the passenger rail transport and interurban industry has a median salary of almost £40,300.
The rail transport and interurban industry remains one of the highest-paying one within all tourism and hospitality industries in the UK.
25. Solo travellers from the UK spend an average of €340 on flight and hotel, the most out of other European solo travellers.
British citizens who travel solo are recorded to spend €340 on average for their flight and hotel alone.
Domestic tourism in the UK
How big is domestic tourism in the UK?
26. The number of overnight trips in Great Britain almost reached 119 million between April and December 2021, which is nearly caught up with the pre-pandemic number of 2019.
27. In terms of trip purpose, residents of Great Britain took 45 million overnight vacations and 43 million overnight trips to visit friends and relatives in domestic destinations.
28. In 2019, British tourists took 1.65 billion domestic day trips within Great Britain.
Day trips here are used to refer to visits that last at least three hours, to destinations where they do not reside in.
29. Britons spend an average of £770 on staycations in 2021, a 12% decrease from the £874 average in 2019.
30. British tourists tend to prefer cities than countryside when taking day trips within Great Britain.
31. In 2019, seaside destinations were most popular with day trippers in Wales (19%), compared to 10% of respondents in England and Scotland each.
Residents of Wales show a higher tendency and preference to seaside destinations compared to day trippers from Scotland and England.
London tourism statistics
How much does tourism contribute to London?
32. London is the most popular city in the UK for international travelers, reaching the top 5 most popular cities worldwide in 2019 with 19.56 million tourists.
33. Despite being one of the most popular cities for tourism, London is actually only the 27th biggest city in terms of population (8.96 million).
34. London tourism has grown steadily from 2011, reaching its peak in 2019 with a total of 21.71 million international visits that year.
35. However, in 2021, overseas arrivals in London plummeted to just 2.72 million, which is an 87.5% decrease.
36. Visitors in London spent a total of £2,104 million in 2019, but fell to £409 million due the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
37. The 1.3 million overnight stays in London in 2019 also decreased to 300 thousand in 2020.
38. Likewise, day visits dropped from 19.7 million in 2019 to 4.3 million the year after.
39. Finally, the number of visits to attractions in London decreased by almost 80% from 2019 to 2020 (7.44 million to 1.56 million).
UK travel accommodation
How many hotels are there in the UK?
40. There were 18,530 accommodation businesses in the UK in 2020.
41. Hotels and similar accommodations are the most common accommodation type in the UK, with 9,837 establishments recorded in 2020.
There are 9,837 hotels businesses in the UK in 2020, making it the most common type of vacation rental in the country.
42. This is compared to the 5,135 holiday and other short stay accommodations, and 2,270 campgrounds, RV parks, and trailer parks.
RV ownership in the UK reached a record high of £1.15 billion in 2021, which might mean that the number of campgrounds, RV parks, and trailer parks will increase even more.
43. Premier Inn is the most popular hotel brand in the UK. 74% of respondents in a 2022 survey stated that they liked the brand.
44. The second most popular hotel brand in the UK is Travelodge with 56% stating a positive opinion on it.
45. The number of hotel guests in the UK is predicted to continuously rise by 23.92% within the next few years, reaching 48.21 million in 2026.
46. In 2020, there were 254 thousand Airbnb listings in the UK, making it the top 6 country with the highest number of active Airbnb listings in the world.
The UK has 254 thousand active Airbnb listings, the sixth highest number from all countries worldwide.
UK top travel destinations
What is the number 1 tourist attraction in the UK?
47. After London, the second most visited city in Britain is Edinburgh with 2.2 million visitors in 2019.
48. It is followed by Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Brighton/Hove, Bristol, and finally, Oxford and Cambridget at the 9th and 10th spots.
49. 41.8 million tourists visited Birmingham in 2017, 6.9% more than 2016, and generated £7.1 billion in revenue.
50. More than 1 million tourists visit Wales each year, spending £3 billion annually.
[Geography in the News]
51. Most tourists to Wales come from the Republic of Ireland, USA and Germany.
[Geography in the News]
Wales is one of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom, and American tourists make up a huge proportion of visitors in Wales.
52. 40% of all visits to Lancashire in 2021 were to Blackpool, with a total of 18.81 million visits that year.
Blackpool is a famous seaside resort best known for Blackpool Pleasure Beach and its charming old-school amusement park. Its number of visitors has more than doubled since 2020.
53. The British Museum is the most visited tourist attractions in the United Kingdom according to 2019 figures.
54. This is followed by Tate Modern, The National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, and Southbank Centre.
It is clear that art galleries and museums are some of the most popular types of tourist attractions in the UK.
55. In 2021, Windsor Great Park is the most visited tourist attractions in the United Kingdom
Windsor Great Park is the most visited attraction in the UK in 2021. However, the 2019 is more representative of the usual UK tourism as it’s not affected by pandemic-related travel restrictions.
56. The most popular destination in the UK for a winter staycation is the North West, with 17% of respondents stating that they intend to visit the region.
A staycation refers to a holiday spent in one’s own country or hometown as opposed to abroad or out of town.
57. 15% said that they intended to visit Scotland during their winter holiday, while only 4% were planning to visit Northern Ireland.
Travel bookings and behaviours in the UK
How do tourists in the UK book their travels?
58. A 2022 survey in the UK reveals that hotels are the most popular travel products to be booked online, with 38% claiming they have booked hotels online in the past 12 months.
38% of respondents have booked hotels in the UK online in the past 12 months, which includes website and app bookings.
59. Another survey conducted among different age groups in the UK showed that people aged 25 to 54 years old prefer to use online travel agencies to book their overseas holiday.
In fact, the UK is the 7th most popular destination for Gen Z and millennial travellers.
60. Meanwhile, agencies and tour operators were the favorite choice for individuals aged under 24 years plus 65 years and older.
61. 48% of travelers in the UK tend to use their smartphone as a guide while traveling.
62. In June 2022, 46% of women in the UK claimed that they had not taken a holiday in the last month, compared to 44% of men.
The percentage of men and women who had not taken a holiday doesn’t differ by much, but in general, women tend to travel less in the UK.
63. At the height of the pandemic in April 2020, 73% of adults in the UK had taken no holiday in the last month. This percentage fell to just 45% in June 2022.
Overall, 13.8% of British baby boomers travels overseas.
64. After the pandemic, the number of people who searched for “glamping holidays uk” and “uk staycation” on Google grew by 400%.
400% more people searched for “glamping holidays uk” and “uk staycation” on Google in the UK, which revealed the growing interest in both domestic travel and glamping holidays.
65. British travellers comprise 6.61% of Booking.com’s web traffic.
The UK is the second largest online audience for Booking.com (6.61%).
From fish and chips to Big Ben, the Royal Family to the Beatles, the UK is one of the biggest countries in terms of travel and tourism—both as a destination in itself and because British residents are known to travel a lot!
We’ve tried to be as thorough as possible, but we might have missed one or two interesting statistics about the UK.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts!
Meanwhile, you might love some of these other stats: