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UK tourism statistics 2020
How many people visit the UK? What are the most popular tourist attractions? Find out the latest inbound tourism statistics to the UK here.
Updated . What changed?
From the rolling countryside to Buckingham Palace, there’s plenty to see and do in the UK, so it’s no surprise that the UK made it into the top 10 for most international tourist arrivals in 2019.
The most popular city to visit in the UK is London, with at least eight times the number of visitors. Within London, the biggest attractions are museums and galleries like the Tate Modern, the British Museum and the National Gallery, so it’s no wonder that international visitors have described the UK as “educational” first and foremost.
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The number of overseas visitors to the UK: The impact of COVID-19
During the 19-year period from 2002 to 2020, the number of people visiting the UK has gradually changed. The highest number of visitors to the UK in one year was 41.1 million in 2017, meaning the number of visitors was almost two-thirds of the whole population of the UK. Overall, there has been a 69% increase in visitors to the UK, from 24.2 million in 2002 to 40.9 million in 2019.
However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a shock to the travel industry with travel bans and lockdowns being imposed all around the world. As a result, it has been predicted that in 2020 the UK will only receive around 10 million international tourists. This is just over a quarter of the number of tourists from 2019.
What are the reasons people visit the UK?
In 2019, with 16.9 million (41%) coming on holiday to the UK, this was the top reason internationals visited the UK. The next top reason was to visit friends or relatives (12.4 million, 30%), followed by people visiting on business (8.7 million, 21%).
|Purpose||Number of visits (millions)||%|
|Visiting friends or relatives||12.43||21.00%|
The top tourist countries by visits
Tourists from the United States have contributed the most to the UK’s travel market, both by the number of visitors and amount spent while visiting. In 2018, 4.5 million American tourists visited the UK. French tourists were the second most common, with 3.7 million visiting the UK, followed by Germans (3.3 million), Irish (2.8 million) and Spanish (2.5 million) tourists.
The most popular cities to visit in the UK
It comes as no surprise that London is the most popular city, with 21.7 million international visitors. London had almost eight times the number of visitors in 2019 than the next most visited city, Edinburgh (2.2 million). Following the Scottish capital, other large cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool were the next most popular destinations to visit. These three cities had an average of 1.2 million visitors each.
The most popular attractions in London
The sizes of the names below represent how many visits each attraction had in 2019, with the British Museum being the most popular attraction (6.2 million visitors). Following closely is the Tate modern with 6.1 million visitors and the National Gallery with 6 million visitors. With the top seven attractions in London being museums and galleries, it’s clear that visitors are keen to learn while in the UK’s most popular city.
Cultural products associated with the UK
With almost half (47%) of all respondents saying they associate the UK with museums and with museums also being the most popular type of attraction in London, it’s likely that international visitors would treat a visit to the UK as an educational trip.
Following museums, an average of 38% of respondents considered music, films and sport to be closely associated with the UK.
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