ONS figures highlight need to nurture US tourism market

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the three months up to May 2016 reveal a 5% fall in spend by overseas visitors to the UK.


Despite the figures, industry experts expect the change in exchange rate to boost UK tourism in the short term as overseas visitors take advantage of a weaker pound sterling, and UK residents opt for ‘staycations’ this summer.


The ONS figures report a £4.8 billion spend by overseas visitors to the UK – 5% less than in the same months in 2015. There were 9.2 million visits from overseas during the period – similar to the corresponding period a year earlier.


Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Tourism, Russell George, has urged the Welsh Government to take advantage of the opportunities of the current exchange rate.


He said:


“Whilst today’s ONS figures suggest a slight decline in visitor spend, we now have an opportunity to put that right.


“The weakening pound is attracting an influx of visitors from abroad, and a record number of British families appear to be opting for staycations this summer - all of which is great news for domestic tourism.


“It’s vital that the Welsh Government takes advantage of the opportunities this presents, and markets Wales effectively at home and abroad.”


Mr George also called for a renewed focus on boosting the number of visitors from North America. He said:


“With an eclectic offering of heritage, culture and countryside, Wales remains an important destination for overseas visitors. Unfortunately, limited connectivity and air capacity are holding us back.


“We have a national airport with the infrastructure to handle long haul flights, and yet we’re no closer to establishing direct routes with North America which should be a key priority for this government.


“We know that North American visitors, in particular, holiday for longer and spend generously.


“We need to take advantage of the fact that the UK is in the international spotlight due to Brexit, and market Wales aggressively.


“The Welsh Government must empower Visit Wales to deliver more visitors from key markets like the US, showcasing all the wonderful attributes that Wales has to offer, including its historic castles, spectacular countryside and stunning coastline.”


Notes to Editors:


Statistics available HERE - https://www.ons.gov.uk/releases/overseastravelandtourismmonthlyprovisionalresultsmay2016