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UK tourism statistics
37.9 million people came over for a pint and pie 2018
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 2018.
The most popular city to visit in the UK, London, beats every other city, 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.
If you’re planning on visiting the UK, check out our guides on how best to cover yourself while exploring the country.
The number of overseas visitors to the UK
During the 16-year period from 2002 to 2018, the number of people visiting the UK has gradually changed. The highest number of visitors to the UK in one year was 39.2 million in 2017, meaning the number of visitors was almost two-thirds of the whole population of the UK.
The top tourists by numbers and spending
Tourists from the United States have contributed the most to the UK’s travel market, both by number of visitors and amount spent while visiting. In 2018, 3.9 million American tourists visited the UK and spent a collective £3.4 billion.
Closely following the United States, France had 3.7 million people visit the UK in 2018. The third-largest number of visitors is 3.3 million from Germany. Despite there being more French tourists than German, German tourists spent £1.5 billion compared to £1.4 billion spent by French tourists. The amount spent by US tourists is the greatest and is almost double (2.3x) the next-largest amount. As they are coming from outside of Europe, it’s likely that US visitors are spending more time and money in the UK.
The most popular cities to visit in the UK
It comes as no surprise that London is the most popular city for international visitors to the UK.
London had almost eight times the number of visitors in 2018 than the next most visited city, Edinburgh. Following the Scottish capital, other large cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow were the next most popular destinations to visit. These three cities had an average of 1.1 million visitors each.
The most popular attractions in London
The sizes of the names below represent how many visits each attraction had in 2018, with the Tate Modern being the most popular attraction.
With 5.9 million visitors in 2018, the Tate Modern is the most popular attraction in London. Following closely is the British Museum with 5.8 million visitors and the National Gallery with 5.7 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 voting that 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.
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