Weak pound brings record number of tourists to UK in August

Brexit Britain is proving a big visitor attraction: a record number of tourists arrived in the UK in August and they splashed out £2.8bn, the highest monthly tourist spend ever.

The number of visitors from the EU climbed 6% to 2.4 million, helping to push the total number of overseas visitors arriving in the UK in August to 3.9 million – up 5% on last year’s levels.

The Brexit vote, and the decline in the pound since then, has made the UK a far cheaper destination for overseas tourists, and driven a boom in bargain hunters from Europe, the US and China who want to snap up luxury leather goods and designer brands for lower prices than they can get at home.

The UK countryside has not missed out either, with hotels in the Lake District enjoying a double digit rise in bookings for July.

Sites linked to popular books, films and TV programmes have also been pulling in the crowds. They include the Northern Ireland locations used in Game of Thrones, and events linked to the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book and the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen.

However, the increase in foreign visitors in August failed to match the rise around the Easter period, when tourist numbers and the amount they spent was up some 20% on the year before.

The terror attacks in Manchester and London are thought to have deterred some potential overseas tourists, while the dollar has weakened from its position earlier in the year.

VisitBritain, the tourism body, now forecasts that inbound visits to the UK will reach 39.7 million by the end of this year, up nearly 6% on last year . They are expected to spend £25.7bn, up 14% to a new high. Both numbers have been revised up since January.

The tourism minister, John Glen, said: “These record-breaking figures for August reaffirm the UK’s position as a global go-to destination and show the continued strength of the sector.”

The surge in numbers throughout the year has boosted Britain’s tourism and services industries, just as uncertainty created by the EU referendum has damaged the confidence of UK consumers and businesses.

The tourist boom drove strong sales for British luxury brands such as Burberry and has helped propel Bond Street in London into the top three of the world’s most expensive store locations, overtaking Paris’s Champs-Élysées.

The economy has also been helped by the trend towards staycations, as the low pound has increased the cost of holidaying abroad.

The VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said the tourist industry was expecting a bumper Christmas: “We are confident of a strong festive season and beyond as we showcase why our nations and regions should top people’s list as the must-go-now destination.”