OVERSEAS VISITS to the United Kingdom are on the rise and, according to Yorkshire businesses, God’s Own County is now firmly on the foreign tourist destination map.
UK tourism has enjoyed a bumper start to the year thanks to an big increase in overseas visitors as well as a sharp rise in their spending.
Foreign residents made 2.41 million visits to the UK in January 2014, up eight per cent on January 2013.
These overseas visitors spent £1.39 billion during their January 2014 trips to the UK - a 12 per cent increase on the January 2013 figure.
The figures follow a successful 2013 which saw overseas visitor spending top the £20 billion mark for the first time.
UK residents made 3.62 million visits overseas in January 2014 - a four per cent rise on the January 2013 total.
But spending by these UK residents during their foreign trips dipped nine per cent to £1.89 billion in January 2014, possibly due to British holidaymakers not actually needing to fork out so much for meals and drinks due to the strengthening of the pound against many foreign currencies.
VisitBritain strategy and communications director Patricia Yates said: “After welcoming a bumper 2013, we’re continuing to see substantial growth from overseas visitors, particularly those coming from our high-volume European neighbours.”
She added that with a new advertising campaign under way “we are looking to continue this momentum as we build towards another record-breaking year for British tourism”.
Business people involved in Yorkshire’s tourism industry say that 2014 is proving to be a good year, partly due to the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire in July.
Des Weston, joint owner of Saxon Villa, a B&B near Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire, said foreign visitors were visiting Yorkshire in between trips to London and Edinburgh.
“We get a lot of tourists from Canada, the USA and France. Last week we had a couple from California. What they tend to do is visit London, then drive up to York, the Yorkshire Dales and the Robin Hood’s Bay area. From there they go to Edinburgh and, if they have the time, the lochs.”
Tourism experts say there has been evidence of an increase in visitors to the UK from China, South Korea and India.
Mr Weston said they had welcomed a handful of visitors from both China and Thailand.
“It’s really nice when we get people from different places - it makes the job more interesting.”
Christa Ackroyd, the former BBC presenter who runs a B&B near Haworth, said: “I’m finding a lot more interest from overseas. I would credit (tourism body) Welcome to Yorkshire and the Tour de France but also an increase in Yorkshire pride which means people are shouting about God’s Own County.”
A spokeswoman for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway said February’s takings were up about ten per cent.
Simon Wallis, director of The Hepworth Wakefield said: “Within the past 12 months The Hepworth Wakefield has welcomed 7,500 overseas visitors, in fact our millionth visitor was Pauline Mackiewicz from Sydney in New South Wales, Australia.
“By maintaining a high-level media presence we are helping to bring an international audience to Yorkshire and have been cited by The Lonely Planet guide as one of the three things that makes Yorkshire the ‘third best region in the world to visit in 2014’.”
He added: “The Times included The Hepworth Wakefield in their ‘Top 50 greatest galleries in the world’ and we have received critical acclaim from the New York Times for the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle initiative.
“I have no doubt that The Hepworth Wakefield, along with many other attractions in the region will reap the benefits of the 100 day Yorkshire Festival as the Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event rides into town bringing with it a global audience and international fans. Sport and culture are already an inspirational part of what makes Yorkshire a world-class destination.”