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Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 10 : 00 AM [IST]

VisitBritain releases survey of international tourists’ habits visiting Britain

International holidaymakers who visit Britain spend their time eating out, shopping and sightseeing, according to an in-depth survey of visitors’ habits by VisitBritain. While a significant proportion of holiday visitors sample the country’s world famous cultural highlights such as theatre performances and historic houses, and admiring famous buildings and monuments they also indulge in ‘fun’ activities such as restaurant dining, retail therapy and socialising with local residents.
 
This revealing picture emerges in VisitBritain’s detailed new report ‘Activities Undertaken by Visitors from Overseas in Different Parts of Britain.’ It strongly suggests that the key reason why foreign tourists come to Britain is to see the ‘built heritage’ – famous buildings – but they are then entranced by the lavish opportunities to go shopping and the quality of contemporary British food.   
 
The report, one of the most detailed surveys of foreign visitors’ tastes conducted, also reveals big variations in what foreign tourists do in different parts of Britain. It shows each area offers a distinctly different kind of experience to overseas tourists. The report suggests the appeal of each area for overseas visitors and the strengths that each area can play to. To get the most accurate view of what motivates inbound tourists the researchers focused on foreign holidaymakers rather than business travellers and people visiting friends and relations and those that stayed in only one area.
 
In a boost for Britain’s reputation for good food 79 per cent of overseas holidaymakers said eating in restaurants was their top activity, followed by shopping for clothes and accessories (67 per cent), sightseeing famous buildings and monuments (64 per cent), shopping for souvenirs (58 per cent) and visiting pubs (52 per cent).Next came visiting a museum (48 per cent), visiting parks and gardens (45 per cent), socialising with locals (39 per cent), visiting religious monuments or buildings (37 per cent), exploring away from where staying (34 per cent), visiting a castle (34 per cent), visiting an historic house (29 per cent) and visiting an art gallery (26 per cent).
 
The individual areas of Britain in detail wherein variations emerged include:
 
North-East:  Pub and club heartland
Foreign tourists were lured to the North-East last year particularly by its exuberant pub and club scene, vibrant football and spectacular coastline. A greater proportion of foreign visitors went to the pub (67 per cent) than any other area of England. Some 39 per cent went to a nightclub - three times as many as the national average of 12 per cent. Some 17 per cent of holiday visitors to the North-East went to watch a football match – by far the highest proportion of any area and more than five times the national average of three per cent. Number attracted *: 429,000. Spend*: 203 million Pound in 2009.
 
North-West: Blackpool, football and good cheer
Overseas visitors were attracted to the North-West last year mainly by a potent mix of sociability, soccer and seaside entertainment. A remarkable 61 per cent said they spent time while in the area ‘socialising with the locals,’ the highest figure for any area of England and some 57 per cent went to the pub. Significantly, 19 per cent of visitors said they had come for a ’miscellaneous’ purpose and when researchers looked more closely it emerged 61 per cent of these watched a football match. Some 23 per cent of foreign holidaymakers headed for the seaside including such attractions as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with more than 5.5 million international and domestic visitors a year. Number attracted*: More than 2.1 million: Spend*: 800 million Pound in 2009.
 
London: World sightseeing capital
Overseas visitors were enticed to the capital last year by the opportunities to eat out (83 per cent), shop (70 per cent) and, the proportion sightseeing famous monuments and buildings (70 per cent) was the highest in England. One in four (24 per cent) went to the theatre, far ahead of its nearest rival, the West Midlands, (which includes Shakespeare’s Stratford) where the rate was almost one in 10 (9 per cent). Number attracted*: More than 14.2 million Spend*: 8.2 billion Pound in 2009.
 
Yorkshire: Grand countryside and cosy pubs
Overseas tourists were lured to Yorkshire last year particularly by the county’s outstandingly countryside and villages. Some 55 per cent of foreign holidaymakers who visited Yorkshire headed for rural areas, the highest proportion in Britain. Yorkshire’s nearest rival in this respect was Scotland (52 per cent). A higher proportion sampled the local pubs (60 per cent) than any other area of England apart from the North-East and East Midlands. One in three (29 per cent) took part in a sports event. Number attracted*: More than one million Spend*: 461 million Pound.
 
West Midlands: Shakespeare, football and thatched cottages
Foreign visitors were drawn to the West Midlands last year by the friendly welcome, countryside and The Bard. A relatively large proportion of foreign holidaymakers ‘socialised with the locals’ (59 per cent), visited the countryside (25 per cent), and toured the villages (26 per cent).  The lure of Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon was powerful with nine per cent going to the theatre. Number attracted*: 1.6 million Spend*: 595 million Pound.
 
East Midlands: Outstanding sociability in a dramatic landscape
Overseas visitors were attracted to the East Midlands by the outstanding sociability of people and drama of the landscape. Around 57 per cent of foreign visitors ‘socialised with the locals’ – the second highest rate in the country - while 64 per cent went to the pub. One in three (34 per cent) visited the countryside such as the dramatic Pennine moorland, beautiful Dovedale and the Peak District. Overseas travellers get active when they visit this area: almost one-third (30 per cent) doing some kind of sport. Number attracted*: Some 992,000. Spend*: 393 million Pound.
 
East of England: Elegant towns, ancient history
Overseas holidaymakers were lured to the East of England by attractions ranging from the university city of Cambridge, the fenland town of Ely with its Norman cathedral, the Suffolk coastline and Colchester, the oldest recorded town in Britain. Not surprisingly, 31 per cent of foreign holidaymakers went to the countryside and 32 per cent visited villages. Some 47 per cent ‘socialised with the locals’ and 23 per cent did sport. Number attracted*: More than 2.1 million Spend: 782 million Pound.

South-West: Enchanting woodland, sparkling coast

Foreign visitors were attracted to the South-West by the chance to get out and about. In an area blessed by the woodland of the New Forest, the Exeter Cathedral, the surfer’s paradise of Newquay, the Land’s End and the Mediterranean light of St Ives a greater proportion of foreign tourists (48 per cent) explored away from where they were staying and visited the coast (48 per cent) than anywhere else in England. More than half of foreign holidaymakers visited the countryside (51 per cent) and villages (55 per cent). The numbers doing sports activities (29 per cent) were among the highest in England. Number attracted*: More than 2.2 million Spend*: 1.1billion Pound.
 
South-East: Explorer’s paradise
Foreign holidaymakers were attracted to the South-East by the chance to explore. Some 44 per cent of foreign holidaymakers to the area ranged away from where they were staying, a higher proportion than anywhere in England apart from the South West. Some 38 per cent visited the country side such as Wakehurst Place garden, 37 per cent visited coastal resorts such as Eastbourne or the Isle of Wight, and 39 per cent went to villages such as Shere in Surrey, 42 per cent went to castles such as Leeds near Maidstone. They were also more likely to ‘socialise with the locals’ (47 per cent) and do sports (22 per cent). Number attracted*: 4.3 million Spend*: 1.9 billion Pound in 2009.
 
Scotland: Action-packed fun in one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes
Foreign tourists were drawn to Scotland for an action-packed holiday. A 73 per cent went sightseeing famous buildings and 67 per cent visited castles such as Edinburgh. A higher proportion (67 per cent) spent time relaxing in the pub than in any other part of Britain. Scotland’s natural beauty such as Loch Lomond and Glencoe is also a massive draw, with 52 per cent of holiday visitors visiting the countryside, 41 per cent visiting the coast, 42 per cent visiting villages, and 57 per cent exploring places away from where they were staying. Some 37 per cent took part in sport, and seven per cent played golf, the highest rate in Britain. Number attracted*:  2.5 million Spend*: 1.4 billion Pound in 2009.
 
Wales: Lured by the land of castles
Holiday visitors were lured to Wales by the great outdoors, historic landmarks and its vibrant and cosmopolitan cities. With three National Parks, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, at only 170 miles from north to south and 60 miles east to west some 49 per cent of holiday visitors visited the countryside, and 54 per cent explored places away from where they were staying. Some 37 per cent visited the coast, and 42 per cent visited villages. As 'the land of castles' – with no fewer than 641 famous fortresses – it is no surprise that 37 per cent visited castles. Number attracted*: 991,000 Spend*: 332 million Pound.
 
Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications, VisitBritain said, “This detailed report gives us a fascinating insight into exactly what attracted 30 million overseas visitors to Britain last year. It strongly suggests people mainly come to see our famous sights but enjoyed the experience of our shopping and restaurants. This is particularly great to see in a year which saw our restaurants winning more Michelin stars in 2010 than at any other time in the 35 year history of the gastronomic award. It also shows different areas of Britain have strong individual identities as tourism destinations in their own right.”
 
To refer to the key differences between Scotland, Wales, and the Areas of England (Holiday only) one can visit: http://media.visitbritain.com/News-Releases/FOREIGN-TOURISTS-COME-TO-BRITAIN-TO-EAT-SHOP-SIGHTSEE-SAYS-VISITBRITAIN-REPORT-1c7f.aspx
 
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