Tourism in the United Kingdom

Tourism in the United Kingdom

the United Kingdom recorded a total of eleven million tourists in 2020, ranking 22nd in the world in absolute terms.

Without including the size of a country, such a ranking list may not be very meaningful. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of the United Kingdom, the result is much more comparable picture: With 0.16 tourists per resident, the United Kingdom ranked 96th in the world. In Northern Europe, it ranked 9th.

In 2018, the United Kingdom generated around 48.52 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 1.5 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 45 percent of all international tourism receipts in Northern Europe.

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Back to overview: United Kingdom

The most popular cities in the United Kingdom for international travelers are London and Edinburgh. In 2021, London ranked 8th among the world's most popular cities. Edinburgh was in 46th.

Tourism in the United KingdomOn average, each of the tourists arriving in 2018 spent about 1,144 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of the United Kingdom spend only around 722 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

Development of the tourism sector in the United Kingdom from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in the United Kingdom each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Data in the chart are given in millions of tourists. The red line represents the average of all 10 countries in Northern Europe.

Tourists per year in the United Kingdom

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 27.58 billion USD, or about 2.0 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 23.54 million tourists at that time and roughly 1,172 USD per person. Within 23 years, the country's dependence on tourism has decreased noticeably. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $48.52 billion billion, 1.7 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $1,204 on their vacation in the United Kingdom.

Full figures for 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, are not currently available. However, national and international travel has been restricted worldwide, and some countries have even been closed off from the outside world altogether. Dramatic revenue losses are expected, with some countries experiencing losses of up to more than 80%.

Tourism receipts in the United Kingdom per year

All data for the United Kingdom in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
202011.10 m
201940.86 m
201840.28 m48.52 bn $1.7 %1,204 $
201741.08 m47.72 bn $1.8 %1,162 $
201639.13 m47.78 bn $1.8 %1,221 $
201536.79 m50.90 bn $1.7 %1,384 $
201435.34 m51.58 bn $1.7 %1,460 $
201333.57 m46.04 bn $1.6 %1,372 $
201232.22 m40.93 bn $1.5 %1,270 $
201131.89 m38.81 bn $1.5 %1,217 $
201030.40 m34.72 bn $1.4 %1,142 $
200931.07 m39.04 bn $1.6 %1,257 $
200831.89 m48.62 bn $1.7 %1,525 $
200732.78 m51.35 bn $1.7 %1,566 $
200632.71 m45.95 bn $1.7 %1,405 $
200529.97 m41.74 bn $1.6 %1,393 $
200427.76 m37.17 bn $1.5 %1,339 $
200324.72 m30.74 bn $1.5 %1,244 $
200224.18 m27.82 bn $1.6 %1,150 $
200122.84 m26.14 bn $1.6 %1,145 $
200025.21 m29.98 bn $1.8 %1,189 $
199925.39 m30.81 bn $1.8 %1,213 $
199825.75 m31.66 bn $1.9 %1,230 $
199725.52 m30.48 bn $2.0 %1,195 $
199625.16 m29.18 bn $2.1 %1,160 $
199523.54 m27.58 bn $2.0 %1,172 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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